Publication Detail

Fragmentation of China’s Landscape by Roads and Urban Areas



Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS), Urban Land Use and Transportation Center

Suggested Citation:
Li, Taian, Fraser M. Shilling, James H. Thorne, Fengmin Li, Heidi Schott, Ryan Boynton, Alison Berry (2010) Fragmentation of China’s Landscape by Roads and Urban Areas. Landscape Ecology 25 (6), 839 - 853

China’s major paved road-ways (national roads, provincial roads, and county roads), railways and urban development are rapidly expanding. A likely consequence of this fast-paced growth is landscape fragmentation and disruption of ecological flows. In order to provide ecological information to infrastructure planners and environmental managers for use in landscape conservation, land-division from development must be measured. We used the effective- mesh-size (Meff) method to provide the first evaluation of the degree of landscape division in China, caused by paved roads, railways, and urban areas. Using Meff, we found that fragmentation by major transportation systems and urban areas in China varied widely, from the least-impacted west to the most impacted south and east of China. Almost all eastern provinces and counties, especially areas near big cities, have high levels of fragmentation. Several eastern-Chinese provinces and biogeographic regions have among the most severe landscape fragmentation in the world, while others are comparable to the least developed areas of Europe and California. Threatened plant hotspots and areas with high mammal species diversity occurred in both highly fragmented and less fragmented areas, though future road development threatens already  moderately divided landscapes. To conserve threatened biodiversity and landscapes, we recommend that national and regional planners in China consider existing land division before making decisions about further road development and improvement.