Towards quantification of Holocene anthropogenic land-cover change in temperate China: A review in the light of pollen-based REVEALS reconstructions of regional plant cover

Furong Li, Marie José Gaillard, Xianyong Cao, Ulrike Herzschuh, Shinya Sugita, Pavel E. Tarasov, Mayke Wagner, Qinghai Xu, Jian Ni, Weiming Wang, Yan Zhao, Chengbang An, A. H.W. Beusen, Fahu Chen, Zhaodong Feng, C. G.M.Klein Goldewijk, Xiaozhong Huang, Yuecong Li, Yu Li, Hongyan LiuAizhi Sun, Yifeng Yao, Zhuo Zheng, Xin Jia

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76 Scopus citations


In an attempt to quantify Holocene anthropogenic land-cover change in temperate China, we 1) applied the REVEALS model to estimate plant-cover change using 94 pollen records and relative pollen productivity for 27 plant taxa, 2) reviewed earlier interpretation of pollen studies in terms of climate- and human-induced vegetation change, and 3) reviewed information on past land use from archaeological studies. REVEALS achieved a more realistic reconstruction of plant-cover change than pollen percentages in terms of openland versus woodland. The study suggests successive human-induced changes in vegetation cover. The first signs of human- induced land-cover change (crop cultivation, otherwise specified) are found c. 7 ka BP in the temperate deciduous forest, and S and NE Tibetan Plateau (mainly grazing, possibly crop cultivation), 6.5–6 ka BP in the temperate steppe and temperate desert (grazing, uncertain), and 5.5–5 ka BP in the coniferous-deciduous mixed forest, NE subtropical region, and NW Tibetan Plateau (grazing). Further intensification of anthropogenic land-cover change is indicated 5–4.5 ka BP in the E temperate steppe, and S and NE Tibetan Plateau (grazing, cultivation uncertain), 3.5–3 ka BP in S and NE Tibetan Plateau, W temperate steppe, temperate desert (grazing), and NW Tibetan Plateau (probably grazing), and 2.5–2 ka BP in the temperate deciduous forest, N subtropical region, and temperate desert (grazing). These changes generally agree with increased human activity as documented by archaeological studies. REVEALS reconstructions have a stronger potential than biomization to evaluate scenarios of anthropogenic land-cover change such as HYDE, given they are combined with information from archaeological studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103119
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
StatePublished - Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is supported by a doctoral student grant for FL from the China Scholarship Council [grant number 201206180028 ], funds from the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences of Linnaeus University , Kalmar Sweden ( ), and the Swedish Strategical Research Area ModElling the Regional and Global Ecosystem, MERGE ( ). We also acknowledge the financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China ( NSFC ) (PI Qinghai Xu) [grant number, 41630753 ] and (PI Yan Zhao) [grant number, 41690113 ], and (PI Xiaozhong Huang) [grant number, 41991251 ] and the National Key Research and Development Program of China (PI Yan Zhao) [grant number, 2016YFA0600501 ], and the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education ( STINT ) and the NSFC [grant number, 41611130050 ] for a Sweden-China Exchange Grant 2016 − 2019 (PIs Marie-José Gaillard and Qinghai Xu). This study was undertaken as part of the Past Global Changes ( PAGES ) project and its working group LandCover6k, which in turn received support from the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Swiss Academy of Sciences .

Publisher Copyright:

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Climate change
  • HYDE
  • Land-use history
  • Pollen-vegetation modelling
  • Relative pollen productivities

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

  • CHI


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