PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2018, Vol. 37 ›› Issue (1): 109-120.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2018.01.012

• Comprehensive Research • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A review of geographical system models

Shushi PENG1,*(), Shilong PIAO1, Jiashuo YU1, Yongwen LIU1, Tao WANG2, Gaofeng ZHU3, Jinwei DONG4, Chiyuan MIAO5   

  1. 1. College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    2. Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. College of Earth Environmental Science, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
    4. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    5. State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • Received:2017-12-21 Revised:2018-01-13 Online:2018-01-28 Published:2018-01-28
  • Contact: Shushi PENG
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.L1624026;Research Project on the Development Strategy of Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.2016-DX-C-02;National Key Research and Development Program of China, No.2016YFC0500203


The geographical system is a complex system including multiple spheres and their interactions. A geographical system model is a coupled human and environmental system model for understanding and predicting changes in patterns and processes of the system. Geographical system models are important tools for supporting sustainable development policy making, and thus is a key scientific research area. During the past decades, geographical system models have been developed to examine global environmental problems such as global change and sustainable development. However, the existing geographical system models have limited ability to simulate and project changes in the complex coupled human-environmental system. This study reviewed the history of development of geographical system models, which is characterized by transitions from single process to multiple process, statistics-based to process-based, static to dynamic, and site level to regional and global scale simulations. We also summarized two important development trends of geographical system models: toward coupled human and natural processes and their interactions, and model-data synthesis. To support policy making for sustainable development in China and globally, developing geographical system models is urgent for the Chinese physical geography research community.

Key words: geographical system model, process-based model, coupled human and environment system, sustainable development, model-data synthesis