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Journal of Geographical Sciences    2019, Vol. 29 Issue (4) : 483-495     DOI: 10.1007/s11442-019-1611-4
Research Articles |
The Belt and Road: Geographical pattern and regional risks
WU Shaohong1,2,3(),LIU Lulu1,2,3,LIU Yanhua1,2,3,*(),GAO Jiangbo1,2,DAI Erfu1,2,3,FENG Aiqing4,WANG Wentao5
1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
2. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
3. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
4. National Climate Center, China Meteorological Administration, Beijing 100081, China
5. Administrative Center for China Agenda 21, Beijing 100862, China
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Building the Belt and Road is initiatives of China to promote win-win international cooperation in the new era, aiming at green, health, intellect and peace and the joint development with people of the countries along the route. Systematic analysis on environmental characteristics, evolutionary tendency and future risks are certainly the scientific fundamentals of sustainable development for the Belt and Road construction. Applied remote sensing monitoring, statistical analysis, this paper investigates the regional characteristics of climate, topography, soil, hydrology, vegetation cover and terrestrial ecosystems production, as well as socio-economic conditions. Based on the regional characteristics, the Belt and Road is divided into 9 sub-regions: Central and Eastern Europe sub-region with cold and humid climate, Mongolia and Russia sub-region with cold and arid climate, Central and West Asia arid sub-region, Southeast Asia sub-region with warm and humid climate, Pakistan arid sub-region, Bangladesh-India-Myanmar sub-region with warm and humid climate, Eastern China monsoon sub-region, Northwest China arid sub-region and Tibetan Plateau sub-region. Combining modeling simulation with scenario projections, natural disaster assessment methodology is used to assess the risk of extreme events including heat waves, droughts and floods in the coming 30 years (2021-2050). Results show that, on the basis of the regional framework, the western Eurasia would be a warming trend; both sides of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in high temperature and heat waves risk; Central and Eastern Europe sub-region with cold and humid climate in high drought risk; Bangladesh-India-Myanmar sub-region with warm and humid climate as well as Eastern China in high risk of flooding.

Keywords the Belt and Road      regional characteristics      extreme events      environmental change      risks     
Fund:Key Project of National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41530749;Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.XDA20020202, No.XDA19040304
Corresponding Authors: LIU Yanhua     E-mail:;
Issue Date: 12 April 2019
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WU Shaohong
LIU Lulu
LIU Yanhua
GAO Jiangbo
DAI Erfu
FENG Aiqing
WANG Wentao
Cite this article:   
WU Shaohong,LIU Lulu,LIU Yanhua, et al. The Belt and Road: Geographical pattern and regional risks[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2019, 29(4): 483-495.
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Figure 1  The covered regions and the current and historical pathways for the Belt and Road
Index Data source Duration Spatial resolution
Terrain National Centers for Environmental Information 2009 1 km
Soil Harmonized World Soil Database 2012 1 km
Land-cover Centre for Earth System Science, Tsinghua
2014 250 m
Protected areas World Database on natural reserves 2017 Reserve area
Temperature Met Office Hadley Centre 1950-2050 0.5° * 0.5°
Precipitation Met Office Hadley Centre 1950-2050 0.5° * 0.5°
SPEI Spanish National Research Council 1950-2004 0.5° * 0.5°
Runoff depth Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research 1971-2050 0.5° * 0.5°
NPP Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research 1971-2050 0.5° * 0.5°
Grain yield* Global Gridded Crop Model Intercomparison 1951-2050 0.5° * 0.5°
GDP World Bank 1960-2016 Countries
Table 1  The data sources for terrestrial areas of the Belt and Road
Levels Index
Mild -1.8<CI≤-1.2 2.8≤HI<6.5 30(35)-150 mm
Moderate -2.4<CI≤-1.8 6.5≤HI<10.5 150-250 mm
Severe CI≤-2.4 HI≥10.5 ≥250 mm
Table 2  Classification of extreme events hazards including droughts (CI), heat waves (HI) and floods (FI)
Figure 2  The spatial distribution of annual average of environmental factors (a. temperature; b. precipitation; c. soil types; and d. vegetation cover) of the Belt and Road
Figure 3  Sub-regions of the Belt and Road
Table 3  The covered countries or regions of the nine sub-regions of the “Belt and Road” and their environmental characteristics
Runoff depth coefficient
Grain yield
RCP4.5 RCP8.5 RCP4.5 RCP8.5 RCP4.5 RCP8.5 RCP4.5 RCP8.5 RCP4.5 RCP8.5
CEE 0.405* 0.305 -0.132 -7.83 -1.22 0.14 17.3 10.0* -0.0573 -0.308*
MR 0.725* 0.682* 16.1* 8.80 2.82 -0.65 18.9* 24.9* 0.122* 0.175*
SEA 0.275* 0.422* 16.0 49.9 3.24 3.26 15.1 33.8* -0.0606 -0.249*
CWA 0.495* 0.605* 5.24 -13.2* 3.50 0.78 4.87 -0.283* 0.0082 -0.200*
PAK 0.476* 0.530* -6.00 -17.4 -1.22 5.28 -1.20 4.14* -0.321 -0.304
BIM 0.424* 0.582* -5.38 -44.8 -0.35 -4.71 5.11 19.7* -0.358 -0.424*
CNE 0.352* 0.587* 5.49 18.1 -6.12 -2.54 10.5 28.3* -0.0271 0.203
CNW 0.310* 0.646* 0.275 0.823 -0.097 -2.72 1.75 2.75* -0.0146 0.040
TIB 0.544* 0.585* 0.335 4.18 -0.71 -1.18 -0.220* 32.0* 0.0856* 0.151*
Table 4  The projected trends of different factors during 2021-2050
Figure 4  Annual mean changes of different resources and environment factors in typical regions (a. temperature increase in MR; b. precipitation fluctuation in SEA; c. runoff coefficients variation in CNE; d. crop yield decreases in BIM; baseline period is from 1971 to 2000)
Figure 5  Heat wave hazard risks for the Belt and Road
Figure 6  Drought hazard risks for the Belt and Road
Figure 7  Flood hazard risks for the Belt and Road
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