PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2017, Vol. 36 ›› Issue (4): 404-415.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2017.04.002

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Spatiotemporal change of vulnerability in counties of northwest China

Daming LU1(), Yuzhong SHI1, Wenlong LI1,2, Xinjun YANG1,*()   

  1. 1. College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Northwest University, Xi'an 710127, China
    2. College of Resources and Environment Economy, Inner Mongolia Finance and Economics College, Hohhot 010070, China
  • Received:2016-11-01 Online:2017-04-20 Published:2017-04-20
  • Contact: Xinjun YANG;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41571163;Humanities and Social Science Talent Plan in Shaanxi Province


As one of the most important scientific research propositions in the field of geographic studies, the research on coupled human-environment system has become an important part of the study of human-environment relationship and regional sustainable development. This study constructed a human-environment system evaluating model of vulnerability in counties of northwest China and its spatial and temporal change based on statistical data, meteorological data, remote sensing data, and spatial vector data in 2003, 2008, and 2013 for 316 counties and districts, using the fuzzy analytic hierarchy process (FAHP) method and coefficient of variation analysis. The results show that: (1) Vulnerability index values of counties in the south are higher than in the north and the west higher than the east. The large and medium-sized cities have a significant impact on surrounding counties and have formed some low vulnerability circles centered around them. Meanwhile, these circles are gradually connected to become large scale low vulnerability areas. (2) The vulnerable levels of four subsystems in northwest China also reveal some regional differentiation patterns. The spatial pattern of vulnerability in social and economic subsystems is congregated and has changed significantly. The spatial pattern of vulnerability of resource-environment and support of policy subsystems tends to be fragmented and stable. (3) The vulnerability diversity of the human-environment system slowly increased in northwest China, the vulnerability diversity of social system first increased and then dropped, the vulnerability diversity of both the economic and the resource-environment systems tends to fall, and the policy support systems are significantly different and stable among different regions. (4) Under policy guidance and support, resource exploitation, economic development, environmental quality, and human wellbeing change becomes coupled, which influence social development and stability. Meanwhile, these two factors react upon economic development, environmental quality, resource exploitation, and policy making. This article deconstructs spatial and temporal changes in northwest China from the perspective of "vulnerability" and aims to provide a theoretical reference and practical application for socioeconomic development in northwest China.

Key words: human-environment system vulnerability, fuzzy analytic hierarchy process, regional differences, northwest China