China’s Yellow River is the most sediment laden water course in the world
today, but that came to be the case only about a thousand years ago. It
is largely the result of agriculture and deforestation on the fragile environment
of the loess plateau in the middle reaches of the watershed. This article
demonstrates that the long term environmental degradation of the Yellow
River was primarily anthropogenic, and furthermore, it explains how the
spatial organization of state power in imperial China amplified the likelihood
and consequences of landscape change.