JOURNAL OF NATURAL RESOURCES ›› 2012, Vol. 27 ›› Issue (12): 1995-2005.doi: 10.11849/zrzyxb.2012.12.001

• Resources Utilization and Management •     Next Articles

Provincial Pattern of China’s Natural Capital Use: A Modification and Application of Ecological Footprint Depth and Size

FANG Kai1, LI Huan-cheng2   

  1. 1. Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), Leiden University, Leiden 2333CC, Netherlands;
    2. Shenzhen Academy of Environmental Science, Shenzhen 518001, China
  • Received:2011-12-21 Revised:2012-04-19 Online:2012-12-20 Published:2012-12-20


Distinguishing and measuring natural capital use is one of the key research priorities for sustainable community. Two modified indictors-regional footprint depth and regional footprint size, as the basis for accounting for depletion of natural capital stocks and appropriation of natural capital flows, respectively, were selected to represent the provincial pattern of China’s natural capital use in 2008. Then cluster analysis was conducted to classify China’s provincial regions (not including Tibet, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan due to no data) according to the above attributes. The results are drawn as follows: 1) Obviously there is a geographical complementarity between the depletion of stocks and the appropriation of flows. From the western region to the eastern region, the former (footprint depth) shows an ascending trend from 1.58 in Gansu to 9.48 in Tianjin, while the latter (footprint size) indicates a descending trend from 3.05 hm2 in Inner Mongolia to 0.12 hm2 in Shanghai. 2) Thirty provinces are classified into four patterns, i.e., the natural capital heavily used (one province is involved), the natural capital moderately used (17 provinces are involved), the natural capital slightly used (four provinces are involved), and the stocks relatively slowly depleted (eight provinces are involved). 3) The provincial pattern of natural capital use presents a significant geographical clustering. The eastern and central regions mainly belong to the area of natural capital moderately used, while the northwestern region basically belongs to the area of stocks relatively slowly depleted, and a majority of the southeastern region belongs to the natural capital slightly used. It is indicated that factors leading to provincial pattern of natural capital use are rather complicated, in particular the resources endowment, economic level, land use and industrial allocation. To achieve an optimal allocation of China’s natural capital in the coming decades, it first requires a policy of regional management that builds on the distribution characteristics of natural capital rather than the administrative boundaries.

Key words: ecological footprint, natural capital, cluster analysis, provincial pattern

CLC Number: 

  • F062.2