Two Thematic Mapper (TM) scenes were used to analyse the amount and pattern of land cover change in China's Pearl River delta. From 1988 to 1996 net cropland area decreased by 13.5%, net vegetated land cover decreased by 11.5%, and built-up land increased by over 272%. A perimeter/area (P/A) ratio analysis was performed on the size and shape of the cropland parcels that were lost between 1988-1996. Cropland was lost primarily due to conversion to vegetated (forest, orchard, etc.) or built-up land. The changes from cropland to vegetated land had a large percentage of area changed in smaller clumps with high P/A ratios, indicating potential linear changes that could be attributed to misregistration. The changes to built-up land cover had a large percentage of area changed in larger clumps with smaller P/A ratios. The P/A ratio appears to be an easily derived method for determining potential areas of linear 'false change' caused by misregistration in change detection analyses.