Relationships between climate change, agricultural development and social stability in the Hexi Corridor over the last 2000 years

  • Yanpeng Li
  • Quansheng GeEmail author
  • Huanjiong WangEmail author
  • Haolong Liu
  • Zexing Tao
Research Paper


This case study of the Hexi Corridor, Northwestern China, utilizes statistical methods to estimate quantitatively the interaction at a regional level between climate change, ancient social developments, and political coping strategies over the past 2000 years. The data is sourced from high-resolution reconstructions of climate series (temperature and precipitation), and historical records of cultivated land, war, population, and changes in regional administrative systems. The results show that moisture conditions played a more significant role than temperature in driving land reclamation in the Hexi Corridor. Analysis also showed a negative correlation between war frequency and the area of cultivated land in the Corridor over 20-year time intervals. Population growth was found to have a significant positive correlation with the cultivated land area during the study period. The results indicate that a climate-induced decline in agricultural production and the subsequent fluctuations in population could act as a trigger for social unrest, which is especially true at the mutual decadal time-scales. However, the interaction with administrative reform also suggests that, in the face of social and economic turmoil, a reasonable administrative hierarchy could strengthen the social governance of regional government, and promote social stability and economic development at a regional level. The study substantiates this notion with empirical quantitative evidence.


Climate change Agricultural development Social stability Regional administrative reform Hexi Corridor 


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This work was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDA19040101) and the Key Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. ZDRW-ZS-2016-6 and KGFZD-135-17-009-1)


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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