Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2017, Vol. 27 ›› Issue (2): 161-182.doi: 10.1007/s11442-017-1370-z

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A systematic review of research studies on the estimation of net primary productivity in the Three-River Headwater Region, China

Qingling SUN1,2(), Baolin LI1,2,3(), Chenghu ZHOU1,2,3, Fei LI4, Zhijun ZHANG4, Lingling DING4, Tao ZHANG1,2, Lili XU1,2   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Resources 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 Geographical Information Resource Development and Application, Nanjing 210023, China
    4. Remote Sensing Monitoring Center of Qinghai Ecology and Environment, Xining 810007, China
  • Received:2016-06-24 Accepted:2016-07-26 Online:2017-04-10 Published:2017-04-10
  • About author:

    Author: Sun Qingling (1991-), PhD Candidate, specialized in ecological modelling. E-mail:

    *Corresponding author: Li Baolin (1970-), PhD and Professor, specialized in environmental remote sensing and regional ecological modelling. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Key Research and Development Program of China, No.2016YFC0500205;National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program), No.2015CB954103, No.2015CB954101


The Three-River Headwater Region (TRHR), known as the “Water Tower of China”, is an important ecological shelter for national security interests and regional sustainable development activities for many downstream regions in China and a number of Southeast Asian countries. The TRHR is a high-elevation, cold environment with a unique, but typical alpine vegetation system. Net primary productivity (NPP) is a key vegetation parameter and ecological indicator that can reflect both natural environmental changes and carbon budget levels. Given the unique geographical environment and strategic location of the TRHR, many scholars have estimated NPP of the TRHR by using different methods; however, these estimates vary greatly for a number of reasons. To date, there is no paper that has reviewed and assessed NPP estimation studies conducted in the TRHR. Therefore, in this paper, we (1) summarized the related methods and results of NPP estimation in the TRHR in a systematic review of previous research; (2) discussed the suitability of existing methods for estimating NPP in the TRHR and highlighted the most significant challenges; and (3) assessed the estimated NPP results. Finally, developmental directions of NPP estimation in the TRHR were prospected.

Key words: Three-River Headwater Region (TRHR), net primary productivity (NPP), estimation methods, NPP models, ecological parameters