Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2016, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (5): 531-548.doi: 10.1007/s11442-016-1284-1

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatiotemporal measurement of urbanization levels based on multiscale units: A case study of the Bohai Rim Region in China

Min ZHAO1,2(), Weiming *CHENG1,3(), Qiangyi LIU1,2, Nan WANG1,2   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Resource and Environmental Information System, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. Jiangsu Center for Collaborative Innovation in Geographic Information Resource Development and Application, Nanjing 210023, China
  • Received:2015-08-06 Accepted:2015-12-11 Online:2016-05-25 Published:2016-08-01
  • About author:

    Author: Zhao Min (1991-), Graduate Student. E-mail:

    *Corresponding author: Cheng Weiming (1973-), Professor, specialized in digital geomorphology and GIS. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    Surveying and Mapping Geoinformation Nonprofit Specific Project, No.201512033;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41171332;Major State Basic Research Development Program of China, No.2015CB954101;National Science Technology Basic Special Project, No.2011FY110400-2


Urbanization is a complex process reflecting the growth, formation and development of cities and their systems. Measuring regional urbanization levels within a long time series may ensure healthy and harmonious urban development. Based on DMSP/OLS nighttime light data, a human-computer interactive boundary correction method was used to obtain information about built-up urban areas in the Bohai Rim region from 1992 to 2012. Consequently, a method was proposed and applied to measure urbanization levels using four measurement scale units: administrative division, land-sea location, terrain feature, and geomorphological types. Our conclusions are: 1) The extraction results based on DMSP/OLS nighttime light data showed substantial agreement with those obtained using Landsat TM/ETM+ data on spatial patterns. The overall accuracy was 97.70% on average, with an average Kappa of 0.79, indicating that the results extracted from DMSP/OLS nighttime light data were reliable and could well reflect the actual status of built-up urban areas. 2) Bohai Rim’s urbanization level has increased significantly, demonstrating a high annual growth rate from 1998 to 2006. Areas with high urbanization levels have relocated evidently from capital to coastal cities. 3) The distribution of built-up urban areas showed a certain degree of zonal variation. The urbanization level was negatively correlated with relief amplitude and altitude. A high level of urbanization was found in low altitude platforms and low altitude plains, with a gradual narrowing of the gap between these two geomorphological types. 4) The measurement method presented in this study is fast, convenient, and incorporates multiple perspectives. It would offer various directions for urban construction and provide reference values for measuring national-level urbanization.

Key words: nighttime light data, urbanization level, multiscale units, Bohai Rim