PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2023, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (10): 2019-2032.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2023.10.013

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Distribution and change of China’s population on the terrain gradients from 2000 to 2020

PENG Qiuzhi1,2,3(), HUANG Peiyi1, CHEN Di1, ZHU Dan1   

  1. 1. Faculty of Land Resources Engineering, Kunming University of Science and Technology, Kunming 650093, China
    2. Surveying and Mapping Geo-informatics Technology Research Center on Plateau Mountains of Yunnan Higher Education Institutions, Kunming 650093, China
    3. Yunnan Natural Resources and Planning Intelligence Innovation Laboratory, Kunming 650093, China
  • Received:2023-02-21 Revised:2023-05-19 Online:2023-10-28 Published:2023-10-26
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41961039)


One of the basic topics in population geography is how the population distributes and changes on terrain gradients. With the improvement of data accuracy and quality, it is feasible to conduct macroscopic analysis for this question based on kilometer grid cells. This study analyzed the distribution and change characteristics of China's population on the gradients of elevation, ruggedness, and slope from 2000 to 2020, using methods of frequency distribution statistics, based on 1-km grid statistical cells, and using spatial demographic datasets (WorldPop) and digital elevation model datasets (SRTMGL1). The effects of different digital elevation model datasets (including ASTER GDEM and SRTMGL1) and spatial demographic datasets (including WorldPop, LandScan, and GPW) on the results were also compared and the differences between the 1-km grid and 100-meter grid data were further explored with SRTMGL1 and WorldPop. The results show that: 1) The population increasingly tends to be distributed at the lower position of terrain gradients. The half-balance points of the population distribution on elevation, ruggedness, and slope gradients were 95.6 m, 50.7 m, and 3.01° respectively in 2000, and decreased to 77.0 m, 46.8 m, and 2.88° in 2020. 2) Dominant area of population distribution relative to land area has been stably located at a lower position of terrain gradients. The upper boundary of the dominant part of the population over terrain (MU) is stably located at the elevation of 520 m, the ruggedness of 137 m, and the slope of 6.84°, respectively, and the population dominance rate rose from 0.511, 0.248, and 0.217 in 2000 to 0.522, 0.274, and 0.255 in 2020, respectively. 3) Different spatial demographic datasets have no effect on the distribution and change pattern of population on terrain gradients, while DEM datasets have significant effects on the ruggedness gradient and slope gradient distribution of population. There is no difference between 1-km grid and 100-meter grid data for this study, and the 1-km grid dataset is recommended for the study of population distribution at the national scale and above. This study provides a new basic reference for understanding of the relationship between population distribution and terrain in China at the kilometer grid scale.

Key words: population, terrain gradients, elevation, ruggedness, slope, kilometer grid, China