The Agro-Pastoral Transitional Zone in Northern China: Continuously Intensifying Land Use Competition Leading to Imbalanced Spatial Matching of Ecological Elements


The agro-pastoral transitional zone (APTZ) in northern China is a typical ecologically vulnerable zone and a comprehensive geographical transitional zone. Its land use pattern has significant type diversity and spatial interlocking, which is always related to the play of ecological barrier functions and the sustainability of social-ecological systems. Accurately grasping the spatial competition relationship and comprehensive geographical effects of land types of APTZ in northern China is a key proposition for achieving coordinated and sustainable development between humans and land. To explore the spatial competition mechanism and comprehensive geographical effects of land use in the research area, this study focuses on revealing the evolutionary characteristics of land use patterns based on the center of gravity migration model. Based on the process of land use center of gravity migration, the spatial competition relationship of land types is explored to reveal the evolutionary trend and basic characteristics of land use in the APTZ. The results show the following: (1) Cultivated land and meadow are the main land types of the APTZ in northern China, accounting for up to 70% of the total regional area. The spatial competition between the two land types is the main contradiction in regional land use competition. (2) Drifting of the center of gravity of cultivated land towards the northwest direction is an important land use migration feature of the APTZ in northern China. Between 1980 and 2020, the center of gravity of cultivated land shifted by about 2 km to the northwest, and the center of gravity of grassland shifted by 8–10 km to the southwest. (3) The center of gravity of arable land and grassland in the entire region is constantly approaching, which has decreased from 70.95 km in 1980 to 61.38 km in 2020. The intensification of their interweaving has led to more intense land use competition. Grasping the basic characteristics and driving mechanisms of land type competition is an important means to achieve sustainable spatial governance. (4) The scale differentiation and regional differentiation characteristics of gradient effects are significant, and it is essential to prevent the risk of mismatch between land use and natural endowments in the northeast and north China sections. The research has surpassed the traditional method of analyzing land use competition, and by introducing a centroid model to analyze the spatial mechanism of land use competition, it has expanded the methodology for expanding research in the field of land science and provided basic references for regional sustainable development.

Bangyou Zheng
Bangyou Zheng
Data Scientist / Digital Agronomist

a research scientist of digital agriculture at the CSIRO.