PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2021, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (2): 330-342.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2021.02.013

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Progress of research on adaptation of human-environment systems: Concepts, theoretical frameworks, and methods

YIN Sha1, YANG Xinjun1,2, CHEN Jia1,2,*()   

  1. 1. College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Northwest University, Xi'an 710127, China
    2. Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Earth Surface System and Environmental Carrying Capacity, Xi'an 710127, China
  • Received:2020-06-06 Revised:2020-07-28 Online:2021-02-28 Published:2021-04-28
  • Contact: CHEN Jia
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No(41901168);National Natural Science Foundation of China, No(41771574);Youth Foundation of Humanities and Social Sciences of Ministry of Education of China, No(19YJCZH006);China Postdoctoral Science Foundation, No(2019M653888XB)


The purpose of adaptation research is to reduce the negative effects of external environment and improve adaptation through the adjustment of the subject to the changes of the external environment, which is an important way to realize the sustainable development of human-environment systems. In view of the lack of a unified understanding and systematic review of the adaptation theories, this article summarized the progress of research on adaptation from the concepts, theoretical frameworks, and methods by examining the literature on adaptation of human-environment systems in China and internationally, and put forward a scientific paradigm of adaptation research. The findings are as follows: 1) There is no scientific consensus on the concept of adaptation in academia, which hinders the construction of a general theoretical system of adaptation research. 2) The existing analytical frameworks of adaptation are mostly based on the extension and revision of the theoretical framework in the field of global change. 3) There is no representative method in adaptation research, which mainly uses vulnerability and resilience assessment methods and index systems. Therefore, the construction of a unified concept and theoretical system of adaptation needs to be strengthened. The existing theoretical research in other countries may not be universally applicable, and an analytical framework and method of adaptation research specifically useful in China should be an important research direction in the future. Simultaneously, it is necessary to strengthen the research on integrated adaptation of human-environment systems considering both human society and the natural environment, and pay attention to the dynamic analysis of adaptation with a combination of multiple scales.

Key words: adaptation, human-environment system, adaptive capacity, analytical framework