Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2011, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (5): 833-844.doi: 10.1007/s11442-011-0883-0

• Ecological Environment • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatial patterns of ecological carrying capacity supply-demand balance in China at county level

LIU Dong, FENG Zhiming, YANG Yanzhao, YOU Zhen   

  1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2011-02-22 Revised:2011-03-26 Online:2011-10-15 Published:2011-10-03
  • Contact: Feng Zhiming (1963-), Ph.D and Professor, E-mail:; Yang Yanzhao (1977-), Ph.D and Associate Professor, E-mail:;
  • About author:Liu Dong (1982-), Ph.D, specialized in resources exploitation and regional development. E-mail:
  • Supported by:

    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40801223; Research Project by Department of Services and Management for Floating Population, Ministry of National Population and Family Planning Commission of P. R. China (2010-11)


A balanced ecological carrying capacity and its understanding are important to achieve sustainable development for human kind. Here, the concept of ecological carrying capacity has been used for measuring the dependencies between human and nature. China’s ecological balance between supply and demand has become a global concern and is widely debated. In this study the ‘Ecological Footprint’ method was used to analyze the supply- demand balance of China’s ecological carrying capacity. Firstly, the ecological supply and demand balance was calculated and evaluated, and secondly, the ecological carrying capacity index (ECCI) was derived for each county of China in 2007, and finally this paper systematically evaluated the ecological carrying capacity supply-demand balance of China. The results showed that ecological deficit appeared to be the main characteristic of ecological carrying capacity supply-demand balance in 2007 of China at county scale. In general, more than four-fifths of the Chinese population was concentrated in less than one-third of the land area and more than two-thirds of the land area was inhabited by less than one-fifth of the population. The spatial distribution of the ecological carrying capacity demand-supply was unbalanced ranging from significant overloading to affluence from southeastern to northwestern part of China. It appeared to be more dominant in regions located at coastal areas which are attracted by migrants and had a generally higher population density. Along with the rapid development and urbanization trends in China, ecological deficits in these regions will become more severe.

Key words: ecological footprint, ecological carrying capacity, ecological carrying capacity index, supply-demand balance, GIS, China