Biodiv Sci ›› 2018, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (4): 333-345.DOI: 10.17520/biods.2017251

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The origin of crops in the Yangtze River Basin and its relevance for biodiversity

Yao Zhao1, Jiakuan Chen1,2,*()   

  1. 1 Center for Watershed Ecology, Institute of Life Science, Nanchang University, Nanchang 330031
    2 Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Institute of Biodiversity Science, Fudan University, Shanghai 200438
  • Received:2017-09-14 Accepted:2018-02-06 Online:2018-04-20 Published:2018-09-11
  • Contact: Chen Jiakuan
  • About author:# Co-first authors


The agricultural civilization that originated in the Yangtze River Basin is an important part of Chinese civilization. Being one of the world-famous crop origin centers, the Yangtze River Basin is rich in biodiversity, and has bred many cultivated plants. This review has collected data of crops that originated in the Yangtze River Basin and information of plant remains found in Neolithic archaeological sites. By summarizing the environmental features and tracking the changes of vegetation since the Holocene in the Yangtze River Basin, we attempt to dissect the dynamics of plant use in this area and investigate the relationship between local cultivated plants and biodiversity. Our results indicate the agricultural civilization in the Yangtze River Basin greatly relied on rice production, and domesticated a large amount of fruit and aquatic vegetable crops, which reflects the adaptation and dependence to local subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forests and wetlands. When compared to other basins, the Yangtze River Basin is advantageous in allocation of ecological factors, and the characteristic of domesticated crops shows a typical feature of subtropical humid forest vegetation areas. Studying the natural and human factors related to crop domestication can help us to better understand the origin of agriculture civilization in the Yangtze River Basin. This work not only provides a reference for the conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources, but also plays a guiding role in promoting the construction of ecological civilization and sustainable development in the Yangtze River Basin.

Key words: Yangtze River Basin, crop, agricultural civilization, vegetation, climate, biodiversity