Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2020, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (2): 212-232.doi: 10.1007/s11442-020-1724-9

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Geomorphological regionalization theory system and division methodology of China

WANG Nan1,2, CHENG Weiming1,2,3,4,*(), WANG Baixue1,2, LIU Qiangyi1,2, ZHOU Chenghu1,2   

  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. Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies, Nanjing 210093, China
  • Received:2019-06-26 Accepted:2019-08-07 Online:2020-02-25 Published:2020-02-21
  • Contact: CHENG Weiming
  • About author:Wang Nan (1990-), PhD, specialized in disaster GIS. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(No.41590845);National Natural Science Foundation of China(No.41421001);National Natural Science Foundation of China(No.41571388)


Geomorphological regionalization (geomor-region) and geomorphological type (geomor-type) classification are two core components in the geomorphologic research. Although remarkable achievements have been made in the study of geomor-region, many deficiencies still exist, such as the inconsistency of landform indicators, the small quantity of division orders, disparities of geomorphological characteristics, differences of mapping results, and the small scale of zoning maps. Requirements for improved national geomor-regions are therefore needed for the purpose of an enhanced national geo-information system. Based on theories of geomor-region in China including plate tectonics, crustal features, endogenic and exogenic forced geomorphological features, and regional differentiations of geomor-type, a three-order (major-region, sub-region, and small-region) research program on China’s geomor-regions is proposed on the basis of previous 2013 geomor-region system. The major contents of the new geomor-region scheme are: (1) principles of the national multi-order geomor-regions; (2) hierarchical indicator systems of geomor-regions including characteristics of the terrain ladder under the control of tectonic setting, combinations of regional macro-form types, combinations of endogenic and exogenic forces and basic types of morphology, combinations of regional morphological types, and combinations of regional micro-morphological types; (3) naming rules and coding methods of geomor-regions; and (4) precise positioning techniques and methods of multi-order geomor-region divisions based on multi-source data. Using the new geomor-region theory and division methodology, the partition of national three-order geomor-regions of China was successfully constructed. The geomor-region system divided China into six first-order major-regions, 36 second-order sub-regions, and 136 third-order small-regions. In addition, a database and management information system of the national geomor-regions were established. This research has an important guiding significance for promoting the development of China’s regional geomorphology and for practical applications based on geomor-regions.

Key words: geomorphological regionalization, geomorphological types, hierarchical system, China