In the process of industrial development and urbanization, countries have often experienced a land use transition, with the contraction and concentration of agricultural land and an expansion of forest and grassland, creating a 'win-win' situation for society due to fast economic development on one hand and enhanced ecological conservation on the other, as human pressure on remote and ecologically sensitive areas was reduced in such a process. While Chinese government is searching for new urbanization models/approaches and is reforming the land tenure and household registration system, it is important to understand how land use change and pressure on ecosystems would be affected by the new approaches? This project aims at developing an integrated methodology for investigating the interplay between urban development and ecological stress in rural areas. The methodology will be tested and explored in case study regions to reveal the linkage between urbanization, out-migration of rural labor force and land cover change. The project works on the hypothesis that marginalization of agricultural land in the ecologically vulnerable study regions is driven by the rising opportunity cost of rural labor. This process leads to farmers abandoning marginal farmland for the sake of off-farm employment, and results in the intensive use of high quality farmland, mechanization, and changes in crop portfolios and agricultural practices. The proposed methodology will investigate the processes of land transformation and marginalization and model the complex interaction mechanisms between urban-rural sectors, and between farmers? consumption-production decisions and government policy interventions. Both policy simulations and scenario analysis will be carried out.
Researchers of this project are from Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research at Chinese Academy of Sciences, Department of Geographic Sciences at University of Maryland College Park, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Southwest University of China, and Chongqing Normal University. Professor Laixiang Sun serves as a Co-PI of the project.