Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2011, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (6): 1101-1111.doi: 10.1007/s11442-011-0903-0

• Applications of GIS • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Scale effects of the continental coastline of China

SU Fenzhen1, GAO Yi1,2,3, ZHOU Chenghu1, YANG Xiaomei1, FEI Xianyun4,5   

  1. 1. LREIS, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China;
    2. Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone Research, CAS, Yantai 264003, Shandong, China;
    3. Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China;
    4. School of Geodesy &Geomatics Engineering, Huaihai Institute of Technology, Lianyungang 222005, Jiangsu, China;
    5. Jiangsu Marine Resources Development Research Institute, Lianyungang 222005, Jiangsu, China
  • Received:2011-03-27 Revised:2011-05-31 Online:2011-12-15 Published:2011-10-03
  • Contact: Gao Yi (1982-), Ph.D, specialized in the research on applications of remote sensing and geographical information system. E-mail:
  • About author:Su Fenzhen (1972-), Ph.D and Professor, specialized in coastal and marine geographical information system and spatial-temporal data mining. E-mail:
  • Supported by:

    Chinese Academy of Sciences Program, No.KZCX1-YW-12-04; National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40571129; Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province, No.BK2009627; National High Technology Research and Development Program of China (863 Program), No.2011BAH23B04


Spatial scale is a fundamental problem in Geography. Scale effect caused by fractal characteristic of coastline becomes a common focus of coastal zone managers and researchers. In this study, based on DEM and remote sensing images, multi-scale continental coastlines of China were extracted and the fractal characteristic was analyzed. The results are shown as follows. (1) The continental coastline of China fits the fractal model, and the fractal dimension is 1.195. (2) The scale effects with fractal dimensions of coastline have significant differences according to uplift and subsidence segments along the continental coastlines of China. (3) The fractal dimension of coastline has significant spatial heterogeneity according to the coastline types. The fractal dimension of sandy coastline located in Luanhe River plain is 1.109. The dimension of muddy coastline located in northern Jiangsu Plain is 1.059, while that of rocky coastline along southeastern Fujian is 1.293. (4) The length of rocky coastline is affected by scale more than that of muddy and sandy coastline. Since coastline is the conjunction of sea, land and air surface, the study of coastline scale effect is one of the scientific bases for the researches on air-sea-land interaction in multi-scales.

Key words: scale effect, fractal dimension, coastline, uplift segment, subsidence segment, coastline type