Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2018, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (1): 31-45.doi: 10.1007/s11442-018-1457-1

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Determinants and identification of the northern boundary of China’s tropical zone

Qian XU1,*(), Yuxiang DONG1,2(), Yuying WANG1, Ren YANG1, Chengdong XU3   

  1. 1. Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Urbanization and Geo-simulation, School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
    2. Xinhua College of Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
    3. LREIS, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2017-06-09 Accepted:2017-07-10 Online:2018-01-10 Published:2018-01-10
  • Contact: Qian XU;
  • About author:

    Author: Xu Qian (1984-), PhD, specialized in exploitation and protection of land resources. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41371030


The influence of monsoon climatic characteristics makes the tropics of China different from those of other parts of the world. Therefore, the location of the northern boundary of China’s tropical zone has been one of the most controversial issues in the study of comprehensive physical regionalisation in China. This paper introduces developments in the study of the northern boundary of China’s tropical zone, in which different scholars delimit the boundary with great differences based on different regionalisation objectives, indexes, and methods. The main divergence of opinion is found in different understandings of zonal vegetation, agricultural vegetation type, cropping systems, tropical soil type and tropical characteristics. In this study, we applied the GeoDetector model, which measures the spatial stratified heterogeneity, to validate the northern boundaries of the tropical zone delimited by six principal scholars. The results show that the mean q-statistic value of the higher latitude boundary delimited by Ren Mei’e is the largest (q=0.37), suggesting that, of the rival views, it best reflects the regional differences between China’s tropical and subtropical zones, but it is not necessarily suitable for guiding the development of tropical agriculture. The mean values of the q-statistics of Zheng Du’s line and Yu Xianfang’s line around the Leizhou Peninsula at a lower latitude were smaller, at 0.10 and 0.08 respectively, indicating that the regional differences were smaller than those of Ren Mei’e’s boundary. Against the background of global climate change, the climate itself is changing in fluctuation. It is, thus, worth our further research whether the northern boundary of the tropical zone should not be a fixed line but rather should fluctuate within a certain scope to reflect these changes.

Key words: comprehensive physical regionalisation, the northern boundary of the tropical zone, China