Research Articles

Natural capital accounting in Xi’an City of western China during 1995-2011

  • 1. College of Tourism and Environment Science, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi'an 710062, China;
    2. Northwest Land and Resource Research Center, Xi'an 710062, China;
    3. College of History and Tourism, Shaanxi University of Technology, Hanzhong 723001, Shaanxi, China
Ma Caihong (1974-), Ph.D and Associate Professor, specialized in evaluation of resource & environment and application of GIS/RS. E-mail:

Received date: 2013-07-02

  Revised date: 2013-08-12

  Online published: 2013-11-14

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41071057; No.41001388


As one of the most important metropolitan areas in China, Xi'an City plays a leading role in the development of the western regions. To impede the decision and policy preferences for environmental and ecological factors, this paper took account of the natural capital depletion of Xi'an City during 1995-2011, considered in terms of constant 1990 price levels. The results are as follows. (1) Natural capital depletion in Xi'an City consistently increased from1995 to 2011, increasing from 14.31×108 yuan to 42.28×108 yuan, with an average annual growth rate of 12.22%. The primary component of natural capital depletion in Xi'an City was the cost associated with fossil fuel resource depletion, while the cost associated with ecological services contributed the least to the total cost. (2) During 1995-2011, the proportion of natural capital depletion to Xi'an City in Yanta and Lianhu districts dropped, whereas in counties such as Gaoling County, Chang'an District and Lintong District, it increased. In 2011, the proportion of natural capital depletion varied between the different counties: Yanta District (15.75%), Weiyang District and Lianhu District (10%-15%), Huxian County, Xincheng District, Beiling District, Chang'an District, Baqiao District, and Gaoling County (5%-10%), and in Lintong District, Lantian County, Zhouzhi County and Yanliang District, it was <5%. (3) The spatial pattern of natural capital depletion varied with different perspectives, for example, from a total value perspective, a nuclear pattern around the administrative center of Xi'an City was evident, whereas from a density per capita of natural capital depletion perspective, a bi-nuclear spatial distribution visible in 1995 had become a poly-nuclear distribution by 2011. Conversely, from a density per hectare perspective, a "core-edge" pattern characterized by three circles was observed. (4) The natural capital depletion relative to GDP curve was in accordance with the environmental Kuznets curve, while the proportion of natural capital depletion to GDP was the highest in circle III and the lowest in circle I.

Cite this article

MA Caihong, REN Zhiyuan, LI Xiaoyan . Natural capital accounting in Xi’an City of western China during 1995-2011[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2013 , 23(6) : 1123 -1135 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-013-1067-x


Alfsen K H, Greaker M, 2007. From natural resources and environmental accounting to construction of indicators for sustainable development. Ecological Economics, 61(4): 600-610.
Bartelmus P, 2009. The cost of natural capital consumption: Accounting for a sustainable world economy. Ecological Economics, 68(6): 1850-1857.
Boyd J, 2007. Nonmarket benefits of nature: What should be counted in green GDP? Ecological Economics, 61(5): 716-723.
China's Land Annals Committee (CLAC), 1995. China's Land Annals (1994-1995). Beijing: People's Publishing House. (in Chinese)
Chen M H, Zou X Q, Lin A L, 2004. Quantitative calculation of the economic losses of atmosphere and water pollution and adjustment of GDP in Lianyungang area. China Population, Resources and Environment, 14(2): 88-93. (in Chinese)
Chen Z X, Zhang X S, 2000. The value of China's ecological system. Chinese Science Bulletin, 45(1): 17-22. (in Chinese)
Costanza R, d'Arge R, de Groot R et al., 1997. The value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature, 387: 253-260.
He W R, 1997. On theories and development approaches of value accounting for natural resources. Journal of Yunnan Normal University (Natural Sciences Edition), 17(2): 76-82. (in Chinese)
Le Groot R S, 1992. Functions of nature: Evaluation of nature in environmental planning, management and decision making. Wolters-Noordhoff, 78-80.
Lei M, 1999. Study on issues of integrated environmental and economic accounting of China. China Soft Science Magazine, (11): 95-99. (in Chinese)
Li J C, 1999. Ecological Axiology. Chongqing: Chongqing University Press, 1999. (in Chinese)
Ollivier T, Giraud P N, 2011. Assessing sustainability, a comprehensive wealth accounting prospect: An application to Mozambique. Ecological Economics, 70(3): 513-512.
Reyer G, Rob D, Marjan H et al., 2002. A measure of sustainable national income for the Netherlands. Ecological Economics, 41: 157-174.
Shi P L, Li W H, He W M et al., 2002. Economic estimation of ecosystem services of natural forests in western Sichuan, China. Journal of Mountain Research, 20(1): 75-79. (in Chinese)
Smith R, 2007. Development of the SEEA 2003 and its implementation. Ecological Economics, 61: 592-599.
Subject Group of "China Green National Economic Accounting System Framework", 2004. National economic accounting system framework based on the green environment. Planning Bureau of the China Environmental Protection Administration. (in Chinese)
United Nations, 1993. Handbook of national accounting-integrated environment and economic accounting. Series F, No.61, Sales number: 93. XVII.12, New York.
Walker B H, Pearson L, 2007. A resilience perspective of the SEEA. Ecological Economics, 61: 708-715.
Wang G C, 2001. A study of mineral resources valuation methods based on Green Accounting. Journal of China Coal Economic College, (3): 48-52. (in Chinese)
Wang H, 2002. Environment cost, natural resources cost estimation and revisions to GDP in Chongqing City. Exploration, 5: 127-129. (in Chinese)
Wang J N, Gregory Cha Z, Cao D et al., 2000. China's environment resources accounting scheme design based on satellite account. China's Environmental Policy Research Report. China's Environmental Planning Institute: 2.
Wang S G, Zhou Y Z, 2002. Integrated frame research for resources & environment in megalopolises and regional sustainable development: Case study on Pearl River delta. China Population, Resources and Environment, 12(3): 52-57. (in Chinese)
Wang Y Y, 2006. Study on issues of integrated environmental and economic accounting [D]. Xiamen: Xiamen University. (in Chinese)
Xie G D, Zhang Y L, Lu C X et al., 2001. Study on valuation of rangeland ecosystem services of China. Journal of Natural Resources, 16(1): 47-53. (in Chinese)
Xu S L, 1997. The study on economic loss caused by environmental damage in China: Its meaning, methods, results and suggest. China Soft Science Magazine, (11): 115-127. (in Chinese)
Xue D Y, Tisdell C, 1999. Economic valuation method for environmental goods: Contingent valuation method. Rural Eco-Environment, 15(3): 39-43. (in Chinese)
Yang Y X, Cai Y L, 2000. Sustainable valuation for resources and environment and development in rural China: The SEEA and its application research. Acta Geographica Sinica, 55(5): 596-606. (in Chinese)
Zheng W Y, Yang S P, Sun H, 2000. Economic loss and its distribution character of environmental system in Anhui Province. Administration and Technique of Environmental Monitoring, 12(3): 23-26. (in Chinese)
Zhao T Q, Ouyang, Z. Y, Jia L Q et al., 2003. Ecosystem services and their valuation of China grassland. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 24(6): 1101-1110. (in Chinese)