PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2019, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (5): 756-771.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2019.05.012

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Change in vulnerability of rural human settlement in the semi-arid area of the Loess Plateau since 1980: A case study of Jiaxian County, Shaanxi Province

YANG Qingqing1(),YANG Xinjun1,*(),GAO Yanhui2   

  1. 1. College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Northwest University, Xi'an 710127, China
    2. School of Tourism & Research Institute of Human Geography, Xi'an International Studies University, Xi'an 710128, China;
  • Received:2018-11-08 Online:2019-05-28 Published:2019-05-28
  • Contact: YANG Xinjun;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No. 41771574


From the perspective of human-environmental system vulnerability and following the steps of depicting evolution trajectory-describing the situations-analyzing evolution paths and mechanisms, combined with the ground-truthing method, this study explored the change of rural human settlement in the semi-arid area of the Loess Plateau represented by Jiaxian County of Shaanxi Province. The main results are as follows: 1) The quantitative assessment of the vulnerability of rural human settlement synthetic system and subsystems in Jiaxian County from 1980 to 2016 shows that, the natural system has changed from vulnerable to droughts to vulnerable to floods. Since the 21st century, vulnerability of the housing system has been reduced, while the vulnerability of the supporting system has been aggravated. In the past decade, the vulnerability of the social system has been gradually reduced, and the human system has moved to a severe level of vulnerability. Composite vulnerability remained at moderate levels. 2) The study defined five types of vulnerability situations, including persistent vulnerability, uncontrolled vulnerability, controllable vulnerability, stable healthy state, and volatile systems, and proposed the thresholds for crossing vulnerability types. Vulnerability in the case area has gone through four stages between persistent vulnerability systems and uncontrolled vulnerability systems. 3) The research not only reconstructed the dynamic mechanism of the gradual change of vulnerability of the rural human settlement and identified the evolutionary path of vulnerability of five subsystems, but also extracted 20 key influencing events involving five driving factors—climate change, urbanization disturbance, market change, policy intervention, and farmers' behavioral adaptation. In the end, the article puts forward some suggestions on how to improve rural human settlement and facilitate the rural rehabilitation and revitalization.

Key words: evolution path, ground-truthing, rural human settlement, semi-arid area of the Loess Plateau

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