A global data set of the extent of irrigated land from 1900 to 2005
- 1Institute of Crop Science and Resource Conservation, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany
- 2Water & Development Research Group, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland
- 3Institute of Physical Geography, University of Frankfurt (Main), Frankfurt am Main, Germany
- 4Liu Institute for Global Issues and Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
- 5Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas, Austin, USA
- *These authors contributed equally to this work.
Abstract. Irrigation intensifies land use by increasing crop yield but also impacts water resources. It affects water and energy balances and consequently the microclimate in irrigated regions. Therefore, knowledge of the extent of irrigated land is important for hydrological and crop modelling, global change research, and assessments of resource use and management. Information on the historical evolution of irrigated lands is limited. The new global historical irrigation data set (HID) provides estimates of the temporal development of the area equipped for irrigation (AEI) between 1900 and 2005 at 5 arcmin resolution. We collected sub-national irrigation statistics from various sources and found that the global extent of AEI increased from 63 million ha (Mha) in 1900 to 111 Mha in 1950 and 306 Mha in 2005. We developed eight gridded versions of time series of AEI by combining sub-national irrigation statistics with different data sets on the historical extent of cropland and pasture. Different rules were applied to maximize consistency of the gridded products to sub-national irrigation statistics or to historical cropland and pasture data sets. The HID reflects very well the spatial patterns of irrigated land as shown on historical maps for the western United States (around year 1900) and on a global map (around year 1960). Mean aridity on irrigated land increased and mean natural river discharge on irrigated land decreased from 1900 to 1950 whereas aridity decreased and river discharge remained approximately constant from 1950 to 2005. The data set and its documentation are made available in an open-data repository at https://mygeohub.org/publications/8 (doi:10.13019/M20599).