Journal of Geographical Sciences

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 658–674 | Cite as

Characterizing the changing environment of cropland in the Songnen Plain, Northeast China, from 1990 to 2015

  • Yuan Zhang
  • Shuying ZangEmail author
  • Li Sun
  • Binghe Yan
  • Tianpeng Yang
  • Wenjia Yan
  • Michael E. Meadows
  • Cuizhen Wang
  • Jiaguo Qi


Quantitative characterization of environmental characteristics of cropland (ECC) plays an important role in maintaining sustainable development of agricultural systems and ensuring regional food security. In this study, the changes in ECC over the Songnen Plain, a major grain crops production region in Northeast China, were investigated for the period 1990–2015. The results revealed significant changes in climate conditions, soil physical properties and cropland use patterns with socioeconomic activities. Trends in climate parameters showed increasing temperature (+0.49°C/decade, p < 0.05) and decreasing wind speed (–0.3 m/s/decade, p < 0.01) for the growing season, while sunshine hours and precipitation exhibited non-significant trends. Four topsoil parameters including soil organic carbon (SOC), clay, bulk density and pH, indicated deteriorating soil conditions across most of the croplands, although some do exhibited slight improvement. The changing amplitude for each of the four above parameters ranged within–0.052 to 0.029 kg C/kg,–0.38 to 0.30,–0.60 to 0.39 g/cm3,–3.29 to 2.34, respectively. Crop production significantly increased (44.0 million tons) with increasing sown area of croplands (~2.5 million ha) and fertilizer application (~2.5 million tons). The study reveals the dynamics of ECC in the Songnen Plain with intensive cultivation from 1990 to 2015. Population growth, economic development, and policy reform are shown to strongly influence the spatiotemporal changes in cropland characteristics. The study potentially provides valuable scientific information to support sustainable agroecosystem management in the context of global climate change and national socioeconomic development.


Songnen Plain environmental characteristics of cropland climate change soil properties grain yield 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alvarez R, Lavado R S, 1998. Climate, organic matter and clay content relationships in the Pampa and Chaco soils, Argentina. Geoderma, 83: 127–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bakker M M, Hatna E, Kuhlman T et al., 2011. Changing environmental characteristics of European cropland. Agricultural Systems, 104(7): 522–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bohlen P J, House G, 2009. Sustainable Agroecosystem Management: Integrating Ecology, Economics, and Society. Boca Raton: CRC Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burke I C, Yonker C M, Parton W J et al., 1989. Texture, climate, and cultivation effects on soil organic matter content in U.S. grassland soils. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 53(3): 800–805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chaplin-Kramer R, Sharp R P, Mandle, L et al., 2015. Spatial patterns of agricultural expansion determine impacts on biodiversity and carbon storage. PNAS, 112(24): 7402–7407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen C Q, Lei C X, Deng A X et al., 2011. Will higher minimum temperatures increase corn production in Northeast China? An analysis of historical data over 1965–2008. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 151(12): 1580–1588.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen X Q, Hu B, Yu R, 2005. Spatial and temporal variation of phenological growing season and climate change impacts in temperate eastern China. Global Change Biology, 11: 1118–1130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chi C M, Zhao C W, Sun X J et al., 2012. Reclamation of saline-sodic soil properties and improvement of rice (Oriza sativa L.) growth and yield using desulfurized gypsum in the west of Songnen Plain, northeast China. Geoderma, 187/188: 24–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cui X, Zhu W, Xu X et al., 2015. Land-use Changes in China: Historical Reconstruction Over the Past 300 Years and Future Projection. Danvers: World Scientific.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dai W, Huang Y, 2006. Relation of soil organic matter concentration to climate and altitude in zonal soils of China. Catena, 65(1): 87–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Deng L, Liu G B, Shangguan Z P et al., 2014. Land use conversion and changing soil carbon stocks in China’s ‘Grain-for-Green’ Program: A synthesis. Global Change Biology, 20: 3544–3556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ding C R, 2003. Land policy reform in China: Assessment and prospects. Land Use Policy, 20(2): 109–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dong W Y, Zhang X Y, Dai X Q et al., 2014. Changes in soil microbial community composition in response to fertilization of paddy soils in subtropical China. Applied Soil Ecology, 84: 140–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fantappiè M, L’Abate G, Costantini E A C, 2011. The influence of climate change on the soil organic carbon content in Italy from 1961 to 2008. Geomorphology, 135 (3/4): 343–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gao J, Liu Y S, Chen Y F, 2006. Land cover changes during agrarian restructuring in Northeast China. Applied Geography, 26: 312–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gao J, Liu Y S, 2011. Climate warming and land use change in Heilongjiang Province, Northeast China. Applied Geography, 31: 476–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Guo E, Liu X, Zhang J et al., 2017. Assessing spatiotemporal variation of drought and its impact on maize yield in Northeast China. Journal of Hydrology, 553(Suppl. C): 231–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Heilongjiang Statistical Bureau (HSB), 2016. Heilongjiang Statistical Yearbook 2016. Beijing: China Statistics Press. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  19. Hillel D, Rosenzweig C, 2011. Handbook of Climate Change and Agroecosystems: Impacts, Adaptation, and Mitigation. London: Imperial College Press.Google Scholar
  20. Hillel D, Rosenzweig C, 2013. Handbook of Climate Change and Agroecosystems: Global and Regional Aspects and Implications. London: Imperial College Press.Google Scholar
  21. Hirsch R M, Slack J R, Smith R A et al., 1982. Techniques for trend analysis for monthly water quality data. Water Resources Research, 18(1): 107–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Homann P S, Kapchinske J S, Boyce A, 2007. Relations of mineral-soil C and N to climate and texture: Regional differences within the conterminous USA. Biogeochemistry, 85(3): 303–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Huang F, Wang P, 2010. Vegetation change of ecotone west of Northeast China Plain using time-series remote sensing data. Chinese Geographical Science, 20(2): 167–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huang F, Wang P, Zhang J, 2012. Grasslands changes in the northern Songnen Plain, China during 1954–2000. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 184(4): 2161–2175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), 2007. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. London: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), 2013. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. London: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Jiang L, Zhang L, Zang S et al., 2016. Accuracy assessment of approaches to spatially explicit reconstruction of historical cropland in Songnen Plain, Northeast China. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 26(2): 219–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jiang S C, He N P, Wu L et al., 2010. Vegetation restoration of secondary bare saline-alkali patches in the Songnen Plain, China. Applied Vegetation Science, 13(1): 47–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jilin Statistical Bureau (JSB), 2016. Jilin Statistical Yearbook 2016. Beijing: China Statistics Press. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  30. Jobággy E G, Jackson R B, 2000. The vertical distribution of soil organic carbon and its relation to climate and vegetation. Ecological Applications, 10(2): 423–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kendall M G, 1975. Rank Correlation Methods. London: Charles Griffin.Google Scholar
  32. Lal R, 2004. Soil carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change. Geoderma, 123(1): 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Leipnik M, Su Y, Ye X, 2014. The main agricultural regions of China and the U.S. A Comparative Geography of China and the U.S. Hartmann R and Wang J (eds.). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  34. Li Z, Tang H, Yang P et al., 2012. Spatio-temporal responses of cropland phenophases to climate change in Northeast China. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 22(1): 29–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Liu D, Wang Z, Song K et al., 2009. Land use/cover changes and environmental consequences in Songnen Plain, Northeast China. Chinese Geographical Science, 19(4): 299–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Liu S, Zhang P, Lo K, 2014. Urbanization in remote areas: A case study of the Heilongjiang reclamation area, Northeast China. Habitat International, 42: 103–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Liu Z, Dong X, Liu Z, 2014. Spatiotemporal evolution of the drought and flood in Northeast China. Advanced Materials Research, 1010–1012: 1075–1083.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lu R K, 2000. Analytical Method of Soil Agricultural Chemistry. Beijing: China Agricultural Science and Technology Press. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  39. Lu Y, Jenkins A, Ferrier R C et al., 2015. Addressing China’s grand challenge of achieving food security while ensuring environmental sustainability. Science Advances, 1(1): e1400039.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mann H B, 1945. Nonparametric tests against trend. Econometrica, 13(3): 245–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McPhaden M J, 1999. Genesis and evolution of the 1997–98 El Niño. Science, 283(5404): 950–954.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mao D, Wang Z, Wu C et al., 2014. Topsoil carbon stock dynamics in the Songnen Plain of Northeast China from 1980 to 2010. Fresenius Environmental Bulletin, 23(2A): 531–539.Google Scholar
  43. Meng Q, Li D, Zhang J et al., 2016. Soil properties and corn (Zea mays L.) production under manure application combined with deep tillage management in solonetzic soils of Songnen Plain, Northeast China. Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 15(4): 879–890.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. National Bureau of Statistics of China (NBSC), 2016. China Statistical Yearbook 2016. Beijing: China Statistics Press.Google Scholar
  45. Périé C, Ouimet R, 2008. Organic carbon, organic matter and bulk density relationships in boreal forest soils. Canadian Journal of Soil Science, 88(3): 315–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Piao S L, Fang, J Y, Ciais P et al., 2009. The carbon balance of terrestrial ecosystems in China. Nature, 458: 1009–1014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Podwojewski P, Poulenard J, Nguyet M L et al., 2011. Climate and vegetation determine soil organic matter status in an alpine inner-tropical soil catena in the Fan Si Pan Mountain, Vietnam. Catena, 87(2): 226–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Qiu X, Zhang L, Li W et al., 2016. Studies on changes and cause of the minimum air temperature in Songnen Plain of China during 1961–2010. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 36(5): 311–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Quideau S, Chadwick O A, Benesi A et al., 2001. A direct link between forest vegetation type and soil organic matter composition. Geoderma, 104(1/2): 41–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Richter D D, Houghton R A, 2011. Gross CO2 fluxes from land-use change: Implications for reducing global emissions and increasing sinks. Carbon Management, 2(1): 41–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Schauberger B, Archontoulis S, Arneth A et al., 2017. Consistent negative response of US crops to high temperatures in observations and crop models. Nature Communications, 8: 13931.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Shepard D, 1968. A two-dimensional interpolation function for irregularly-spaced data. Proceedings of the 23rd Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) National Conference. New York: ACM, 517–524.Google Scholar
  53. Shi X Z, Yu D S, Warner E D et al., 2004. Soil database of 1:1,000,000 digital soil survey and reference system of the Chinese genetic soil classification system. Soil Survey Horizons, 45(4): 129–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Song X, Li L, Fu G et al., 2014a. Spatial-temporal variations of spring drought based on spring-composite index values for the Songnen Plain, Northeast China. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 116(3/4): 371–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Song X, Peng C, Ghou G et al., 2014b. Chinese Grain for Green Program led to highly increased soil organic carbon levels: A meta-analysis. Scientific Reports, 4: 4460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Tan J, Yang P, Liu Z et al., 2014. Spatio-temporal dynamics of maize cropping system in Northeast China between 1980 and 2010 by using spatial production allocation model. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 24(3): 397–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Tilman D, Cassman K G, Matson P A et al., 2002. Agricultural sustainability and intensive production practices. Nature, 418: 671–677.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wagai R, Mayer L M, Kitayama K et al., 2008. Climate and parent material controls on organic matter storage in surface soils: A three-pool, density-separation approach. Geoderma, 147(1/2): 23–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wang D D, Shi X Z, Wang H J et al., 2010a. Scale effect of climate and soil texture on soil organic carbon in the uplands of Northeast China. Pedosphere, 20(4): 525–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wang H, Wan Z, Yu S et al., 2004. Catastrophic eco-environmental change in the Songnen Plain, northeastern China since 1900s. Chinese Geographical Science, 14(2): 179–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wang X, Shen H, Zhang W et al., 2015. Spatial and temporal characteristics of droughts in the Northeast China Transect. Natural Hazards, 6(1): 601–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wang Y, Li Y, 2013. Land exploitation resulting in soil salinization in a desert-oasis ecotone. Catena, 100: 50–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wang Z, Huang N, Luo L et al., 2011. Shrinkage and fragmentation of marshes in the West Songnen Plain, China, from 1954 to 2008 and its possible causes. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 13(3): 477–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wang Z, Li Q, Li X et al., 2003. Sustainable agriculture development in saline-alkali soil area of Songnen Plain, Northeast China. Chinese Geographical Science, 13(2): 171–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wang Z, Zhang B, Song K et al., 2010b. Spatial variability of soil organic carbon under maize monoculture in the Song-Nen Plain, Northeast China. Pedosphere, 20(1): 80–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wen B, Liu X, Li X et al., 2012. Restoration and rational use of degraded saline reed wetlands: A case study in western Songnen Plain, China. Chinese Geographical Science, 22(2): 167–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wu H B, Guo Z T, Peng C H, 2003. Distribution and storage of soil organic carbon in China. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 17(2): 1048–1058.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Xia X, Yang Z, Liao Y et al., 2010. Temporal variation of soil carbon stock and its controlling factors over the last two decades on the southern Song-nen Plain, Heilongjiang Province. Geoscience Frontiers, 1(1): 125–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Xie Z, Zhu J, Liu G et al., 2007. Soil organic carbon stocks in China and changes from 1980s to 2000s. Global Change Biology, 13(9): 1989–2007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Xiong W, van der Velde M, Holman P et al., 2014. Can climate-smart agriculture reverse the recent slowing of rice yield growth in China? Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 196: 125–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Yang J, Zhang S, Li Y et al., 2010. Dynamics of saline-alkali land and its ecological regionalization in western Songnen Plain, China. Chinese Geographical Science, 20(2): 159–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Yu D S, Shi X Z, Wang H J et al., 2007. Regional patterns of soil organic carbon stocks in China. Journal of Environmental Management, 85(3): 680–689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Zhang B, Cui H S, Yu L et al., 2003. Land reclamation process in northeast China since 1900. Chinese Geographical Science, 13(2): 119–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Zhang L, Wang Y H, 2014. Study on the effects of economic growth to farmland conversion in China. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2: 25–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Zhuang Q L, Li Q, Jiang Y et al., 2007. Vertical distribution of soil organic carbon in agro-ecosystems of Songliao plain along a latitudinal gradient. American-Eurasian Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Science, 2(2): 127–132.Google Scholar
  76. Zhou X, Zhou L, Nie Y et al., 2016. Similar responses of soil carbon storage to drought and irrigation in terrestrial ecosystems but with contrasting mechanisms: A meta-analysis. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 228: 70–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Science Press Springer-Verlag 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yuan Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shuying Zang
    • 3
    Email author
  • Li Sun
    • 3
  • Binghe Yan
    • 3
  • Tianpeng Yang
    • 1
  • Wenjia Yan
    • 1
  • Michael E. Meadows
    • 1
    • 4
  • Cuizhen Wang
    • 5
  • Jiaguo Qi
    • 6
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Geographic Information Science (Ministry of Education), School of Geographic SciencesEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Institute of Eco-ChongmingEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing Monitoring of Geographic Environment, College of Heilongjiang ProvinceHarbin Normal UniversityHarbinChina
  4. 4.Department of Environmental & Geographical ScienceUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa
  5. 5.Department of GeographyUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  6. 6.Center for Global Change and Earth Observations and Department of GeographyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

Personalised recommendations