PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2019, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (4): 465-476.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2019.04.001

• Theoretical Study •     Next Articles

Review on the conceptual framework of planetary boundaries and the development of its research

Junze ZHANG1(), Shuai WANG1, Wenwu ZHAO1, Yanxu LIU1, Bojie FU1,2,*()   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
    2. State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, CAS, Beijing 100085, China
  • Received:2018-08-24 Revised:2019-01-06 Online:2019-04-28 Published:2019-04-28
  • Contact: Bojie FU;
  • Supported by:
    National Key Research and Development Program of China, No. 2017YFA0604701;The Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities.


Planetary boundaries is a conceptual framework proposed by Johan Rockstr?m in recent years, which is aimed to build a safe operating space for safeguarding humans' survival and development. Since this framework was put forward, it has attracted widespread attention. The skeptics criticized the scientific significance and evaluation methods of the conceptual framework. However, the proponents have gradually improved its evaluation methods and research contents, and explored the downscaling results. In order to promote the understanding and application of this concept and framework, after reviewing the relevant literature we first introduced the conceptual connotation of planetary boundaries and its evaluation results, and then compared them with concepts such as environmental carrying capacity that have been well known to Chinese scholars. We also summarized the controversial views of the conceptual framework, and reviewed its recent development status. Finally, combined with China's current development situation, we analyzed the implications of the conceptual framework of planetary boundaries for China's sustainable development research, and put forward the prospect of future research, including: 1) improving the assessment system of planetary boundaries through making further exploration on the interrelationship between different Earth system processes; 2) defining the links between planetary boundaries, ecosystem services, and human well-being; 3) strengthening research on transformative environmental governance in conjunction with the assessment of planetary boundaries.

Key words: planetary boundaries, safe operating space, safe and just space, sustainable development