Resources Science ›› 2020, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (9): 1704-1714.doi: 10.18402/resci.2020.09.06

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Evolution of global virtual land flow related to agricultural trade and driving factors

QIANG Wenli1(), ZHANG Cuiling1, LIU Aimin2(), CHENG Shengkui2, WANG Xiang1, LI Fan1   

  1. 1. College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
    2. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2019-10-11 Revised:2020-05-22 Online:2020-09-25 Published:2020-11-25
  • Contact: LIU Aimin;


In order to explore the effects of agricultural trade on land resources, this study analyzes the evolution of virtual land trade in relation to global agricultural trade, and reveals the driven factors behind the change trend by the trade gravity equation at the basis of virtual land calculation during 1986 to 2016. The results show that: the volume of global virtual land trade has increased by 1.74 times during 1986 to 2016, oil crops substitute the cereals and became the major categories of land exchange. The volume of virtual land exports increased rapidly in countries with abundant land resources, and countries with scarce land resources and rapid economic development became land importers. Population size, per capita income and trade agreements had a significant promoting effect on virtual land flow, but the impact of income varied in different economic development countries. The land and water resource endowment of the importers had a significant negative effect on the flow of virtual land, and the geographical distance between trading countries had a significant negative effect on the flow of virtual land. China has become the world’s largest importer of virtual land since 2004, and the volume of its virtual land import will continue to increase with the increase of income and shortage of agricultural resources. Thus China should take corresponding measures to ensure the sustainable supply of virtual land.

Key words: evolution, driving factors, virtual land resources, agricultural trade, trade gravity model, global