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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Population, Land Use and Environmental Impacts in Shucheng County, Anhui Province, China during the Ming and Qing Dynasties

Yan Zuozhi, Gu Hongyi, Dai Yangben, Wu Xuande, John A Dearing, Zhang Weiguo and Yu Lizhong

Environment and History 15 (2009): 61-78. doi: 10.3197/096734009X404662

The paper considers the documented environmental history of Shucheng County, located in Anhui Province, eastern China, during the Ming and Qing dynasties. We take Shucheng County as a case study to reconstruct the variations of population and land use in the last 500 years, and to examine their influence on the environmental changes in this region. Data are compiled for population, land use, settlement, recorded climate hazards, and consequent disasters such as drought and flooding. The causative links between climate, human activities and environmental responses are not straightforward. At times, climate seems to have acted as a strong control on human activities, especially the timing of early agricultural expansion in the warm and wet late Ming period. But at other times human activities appear to have strongly modified environmental responses to climate. For example, while the overall incidence of flooding seems to be linked to periods of wetter climate the long term rising trend in the flood record on the Hangbu and Fengle rivers tracks the long term development of hydraulically engineered river systems, the expansion of paddy field agriculture and exploitation of the mountains.

KEYWORDS: Environmental history, Anhui, Ming, Qing, population, land use


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