Research Articles

Spatial restructuring and land consolidation of urban-rural settlement in mountainous areas based on ecological niche perspective

  • YU Zhaowu , 1 ,
  • XIAO Lishan 2 ,
  • CHEN Xiji 2 ,
  • HE Zhichao 3, * ,
  • GUO Qinghai 2 ,
  • VEJRE Henrik 1
  • 1. Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen 1958, Denmark
  • 2. Key Laboratory of Urban Environment and Health, Institute of Urban Environment, CAS, Xiamen 361021, Fujian, China
  • 3. School of Geographic Sciences, Fujian Normal University, Fuzhou 350100, China

Author: Yu Zhaowu (1990-), PhD Candidate, specialized in studies on urbanization and urban thermal environment effect. E-mail:

Received date: 2017-02-03

  Accepted date: 2017-04-18

  Online published: 2018-02-10

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41301621

Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences and National Scholarship Committee


Journal of Geographical Sciences, All Rights Reserved


With the socio-economic development associated with urbanization, the urban-rural relationship has changed across the world. In China, due to the urban-rural dual structure, these changes turn out to be more complicated. Spatial restructuring are suggested as the main strategies and spatial supporting platforms for urban-rural development. However, the theory still lacks solid methodology and support from systematic empirical studies. This study seeks an adequate scientific methodology and discusses the difference of urban-rural transformation in plains and mountainous areas. A case in Shanghang County, China, demonstrates: 1) The compound ecological niche model can be a suitable approach in urban-rural restructuring, especially in mountainous areas. 2) The urban-rural development area with highly inappropriate, slightly appropriate, moderately appropriate, and highly appropriate areas are 1273.2 km2 (44.69%); 906.1 km2 (31.80%); 509.4 km2 (17.88%); and 160.1 km2 (5.62%), respectively. 3) The “deserting villages” in mountainous areas play positive synergistic roles in urbanization, in contrast to the “hollowing villages” common in plain areas. 4) The central town-village will become the most important settlement in mountainous areas. Therefore, we suggest more attention should be paid to environmental capacity in the construction of central town-villages. This study significantly extends the understanding of “hollowing village” theory and regional planning.

Cite this article

YU Zhaowu , XIAO Lishan , CHEN Xiji , HE Zhichao , GUO Qinghai , VEJRE Henrik . Spatial restructuring and land consolidation of urban-rural settlement in mountainous areas based on ecological niche perspective[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2018 , 28(2) : 131 -151 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-018-1464-2

1 Introduction

The distribution and density of urban-rural settlements relative to geo-ecological, socio- economic, and cultural conditions are critical factors in the general urban-rural relationship. Rural settlements will exert significant influence on regional development not only at the macro scale role but also on growth and direction (Bański and Wesołowska, 2010; Woods, 2007; Zhu et al., 2014). With industrialization and urbanization, urban-rural settlements have experienced significant changes across the world, especially in developing, newly industrialized countries (Woods, 2013). Rapid urbanization, urban-rural social transformation, and declining employment opportunities in rural areas have been major driving forces behind changes in rural areas (Chisholm, 1972; Peng et al., 2016; Tan and Li, 2013). Yet, ecologically, the land of towns and villages still remains a less familiar frontier across the world (Forman, 2016).
Since the implementation of the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, Chinese urban-rural regions have experienced a rapid and far-reaching transition and spatial restructuring process within the frames of large-scale industrialization and rapid urbanization that have lasted nearly 40 years. These processes are ongoing (Liu et al., 2010; Long, 2014; Long and Liu, 2015; Tan and Li, 2013). Similar to other regions in the world, this urban-rural restructuring is interlinked with rural decline, urban-rural spatial pattern restructuring, socio-economic transformation, and declining rural employment opportunities (Kiss, 2000; Long et al., 2016; Long and Liu, 2015; Morrill et al., 1999; Woods, 2013). These processes generally result in villages shrinking. However, the urban-rural settlement transition and development in China is different from Western developed countries. It is generally more complicated due to the urban-rural dual structure (residential registration system and land collective ownership system), as well as the deepening impact of globalization (Long and Liu, 2015). Previous studies have demonstrated that the changes vary among regions, e.g., the rural areas near cities and the rural areas in distant and mountainous areas have different development statuses (Antrop, 2004; Clark et al., 2009). In China, the latter group suffers from resource depletion, population decrease, and infrastructure deficits, because of the weak connections with cities and inadequate government policies (Long et al., 2011; Peng et al., 2016; Tan and Li, 2013).
In rural settlements in the plain areas of North China, a trend of population decline and the distinctive Chinese phenomenon of “village hollowing” result from the dual-track structure and socio-economic development of the urban-rural systems. Hollow villages can be characterized by three main phenomena: 1) a decrease in population and arable land; 2) housing abandonment (but not demolition) in the village center; and 3) settlements sprawling around the villages (Long, 2014; Long and Liu, 2015; Tan and Li, 2013). Contemporary legislations and regulations also affect this process. For instance, to better protect property rights, improve land circulation, increase farmers’ incomes, and contribute to the development of modern agriculture, the State Council of China enacted land collective ownership reform on Oct. 30, 2016, to stabilize the Rural Land-Contract Relationship (official website of the Central People’s Government of China: Land ownership in rural land of China will be separate from Land-Use Rights, Contract Rights, and Operating Rights. The so-called “Separation of Three Rights” of land ownership means that the farmers will keep the Contract Rights of the rural land, while, in the future, Operating Rights can be traded and leased to others to operate and manage. Furthermore, farmers can use the lands for a mortgage from the financial institutions: all of this had been forbidden previously.
Currently, Chinese policies regarding rural settlements and urban-rural development primarily focus on rural plains and coastal areas, and lack attention to mountainous areas (Long et al., 2016; McGranahan et al., 2007). Studies about the so-called “three-wheel” driving mechanism for the evolution of rural settlements have been suggested (Zhou et al., 2013). The “increasing vs. decreasing balance” land-use policy has been adopted by the Chinese government and studied by researchers to balance increases in urban construction land with a reduction in rural construction land (Long et al., 2012). Land consolidation and urban-rural spatial restructuring as the main strategy to implement urban-rural coordinated development have been studied. Urban-rural restructuring can be measured in spatial, economic, and social dimensions, and it is usually pushed forward by rural development elements restructuring, structural optimization, and functional evolution of the rural territory system (Long, 2014; Long et al., 2016; Woods, 2013).
The concept of urban-rural spatial restructuring includes the physical evolution of rural space and optimization and adjustment of the present rural space (by means of planning, generally government-oriented) by reshaping the socio-economic structure in rural areas owing to the integrated result of endogenous development needs and exogenous driving forces (Long and Liu, 2016; Yao and Xie, 2016). Yang et al. (2016) investigated the rural spatial distribution pattern and characteristics of China and detected that economic development and tradition are main influential factors on the rural spatial pattern. The study also found that the average distance to a main roadway, agricultural machinery, per capita grain production, per capita arable land, population density, elevation, precipitation, etc. also influenced the rural spatial development and restructuring. Based on a set of methods concerning landscape security pattern construction (ant colony optimization algorithm and scenario simulation), Yao and Xie (2016) studied the rural spatial restructuring in an ecologically fragile mountainous area. Accordingly, they suggested that the methodology of the study proved to be a useful technical tool supporting rural spatial restructuring. Wang et al. (2014) established a rural residential symbiotic restructuring system using the symbiotic theory. Then they formulated productivity-oriented, service-oriented, and living-oriented residential restructuring patterns at the local scale. One of the important reasons for rural spatial restructuring is alleviating poverty and improving living standards of the rural population. A study by Lo et al. (2016) examined poverty alleviation due to resettlement, which is a key type of spatial restructuring in rural China. The study also describes the significant challenges remaining to be addressed for short-distance and long-distance resettlement, including establishing two-way communication between villagers and the government about resettlement plans and providing better financial support for the resettlers.
Previous studies paid more attention to rural living/residential spatial restructuring in rural areas (Long and Liu, 2016; Yao and Xie, 2016). However, the rural area is not just a living place, but also provides other functions (i.e., agricultural production, aesthetic, and ecological value). Therefore, the concept of rural restructuring has gradually shifted from single “living function” to a multifunction of “production, living and ecology,” which is the conceptual model advanced by Liu and Long (Liu et al., 2010; Long et al., 2011). The conceptual model describes urban-rural spatial restructuring, coupling rural production, living, and ecological spatial restructuring with agricultural land consolidation, hollowed villages consolidation, and industrial and mining land consolidation (Long, 2014; Long and Liu, 2016; Long et al., 2016). However, this conceptual model still lacks solid methodology and systematic empirical evidence that can build favorable rural production, living, and ecological space, and facilitate the development of urban-rural integration. Since the distribution of urban-rural settlements resembles that caused by biological behavior in the environment, the spatial restructuring and land consolidation may be thought of as filling the most appropriate niche (Han et al., 2015). Therefore, compound ecological niche analysis has been used in this study. Many publications have reported that the pattern, process, and mechanism in remote mountainous areas and plain areas are significantly different (Zhao et al., 2013a). This means the “hollowing village” phenomenon in plain areas, which has been studied and described by many researchers, may not be the same state of affairs in mountainous areas (Li, 2012; Yu et al., 2016; Zhou et al., 2013). Therefore, this paper aims to: 1) explore and assess the methodology of urban-rural settlement spatial restructuring based on the ecological niche model; 2) focus on the case of mountainous areas of China, which are characterized by “deserting villages” in contrast to the “hollowing villages” in plain areas; and 3) propose possible policy implications and highlight the roles of the central town-village in mountainous areas.

2 Study area and data processing

2.1 Study area

The study area is Shanghang County, located in Fujian Province (southeast China) (24°46′02″N-25°27′47″N, 116°15′50″-116°56′47″), and covers an area of 2879 km2 (Figure 1). Shanghang County is a typical mountainous area, with vast low-altitude mountainous and hilly lands, covering 80% of the county’s total. The topography of Shanghang is known as a county comprising “eighty percent of mountains, ten percent of water, and ten percent of farmland.” The study area is surrounded by the Wuyi Mountains and the Bopingling Mountains and includes an important ecosystem (the core areas of the Wuyi Mountains is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site). At the beginning of the 21st century, Shanghang County experienced rapid socio-economic development, indicated by the increase in GDP and GDP per capita between 2004 and 2014 from 3.98 billion yuan to 22.67 billion yuan and from 8249 yuan to 61,187 yuan respectively. In the same period, the urbanization rate of Shanghang County increased from 18.6% to 42.1%, and the growth rate reached 2.14% annually. Shanghang County is still in a period of rapid urbanization: a previous study based on location quotients and rurality index, identified that Shanghang County is the most dynamic area of urban-rural transformation in Fujian Province (Xiao et al., 2015).
Recently, Shanghang County’s government promoted the so-called the “New Countryside” and the “New-Type Urbanization” strategies. The consequence was that the urban-rural spatial pattern, particularly the distribution of rural settlements, has changed dramatically. This process has been based on the specific geographical context, including industrialization, urbanization, and political influence; these factors together are quite typical in Fujian Province, and for the rest of China. Shanghang County therefore represents typical development features of China and the region.

2.2 Data collection and processing

To explore urban-rural spatial restructuring based on ecological niche theory in Shanghang’s case, SPOT5 (2.5 m) and Gaofen-1 (2 m) remote sensing images from 2004 and 2014, DEM (Digital Elevation Model, 1:50,000), soil, and geological hazard data in Shanghang County were used. Socio-economic data were harvested from the Statistical Yearbook (2004 and 2014), the Urban Master Planning (2013-2030), the Traffic Distribution Map (2014), and other related data in Shanghang County.
Firstly, ERDAS9.2 software was used to conduct image registration, geometric correction (WGS 1984), and image mosaic. Secondly, artificial visual interpretation was used to assess the distribution of urban-rural settlements. We extracted 1249 and 812 urban-rural settlements in 2004 and 2014, respectively. To ensure the accuracy of interpretation, we used Google Earth images (0.6 m resolution) to verify the completed data. The similarity in 2014 was 96%. (Due to the lack of high-resolution historical imagery of Shanghang County in Google Earth in 2004, we did not check for that year.) Further, we randomly selected 25 patches for field validation. Twenty-three of these rural settlements were identified (92%). Subsequently, we plotted a vector map of the urban-rural settlement spatial distribution of Shanghang County. Geographic data and socio-economic data were uploaded to ArcGIS 10.3 to create a vectorization of the initial database with natural socio-economic attributes.

3 Methodology

3.1 Compound ecological niche model

Johnson proposed the concept of the ecological niche in 1910, arguing that the different species in the same area occupy different niches in the environment (Liu and Ma, 1990). Hutchinson (1958) argued that the environmental factors affecting a species could be conceived of as a set of n coordinates. For each of these coordinates, a limiting value exists, within which the species can survive and reproduce. The ranges of the coordinates within the limiting values define an n-dimensional hypervolumes, at any point within which resources and environmental conditions would permit the species to exist indefinitely. Johnson proposed the concepts of the “foundational niche” and the “realized niche” (Cao, 1995; Hairston et al., 1960; Whittaker et al., 1973). Odum (1983) proposed the general concept of the “ecological niche,” which refers to the location and condition of a species’ shape adaptation, physiological responses, and peculiar behavior (Zhang and Xie, 1997). In this context, it is assumed that the distribution of urban-rural settlements resembles that of natural ecological behavior in the environment. Hence, an urban-rural settlement could be viewed as a nature-economy-society, occupying a specific complex ecosystem niche, as suggested by Zhao et al. (2013b) from the perspective of the household registration system, land ownership, and land-use regime.
The process of the urban-rural settlement spatial restructuring should focus on identifying the most appropriate distribution pattern of settlements. Urban-rural spatial restructuring demands a combination of various factors, which constitute the n-dimensional space of the region. However, each factor has a threshold value, which implies that the ecological niche fitness will change if the threshold value is exceeded, i.e., a slope of agriculture land greater than 15 degrees is not suitable for cultivation. When the regional resources and environment can fully satisfy the demands of urban-rural settlement distribution, then the ecological niche fitness is equal to 1. If the converse is true, the ecological niche fitness is equal to 0 (Han et al., 2015; Nie et al., 2012; Qu et al., 2010; Li and Lin, 1997).
In this study, the compound ecological niche fitness is an expression that comprises ecological factors, production factors, and living factors, which are related to the theory of how to restructure rural production, living, and ecological spaces as described above (Long, 2014; Long, 2012; Yang et al., 2016). For this purpose, we established an evaluation index system (Qin et al., 2012; Zhao et al., 2013a). The procedure is as follows: 1) A principal component analysis (PCA) method is used to determine the evaluation factors. Subsequently, the index system is constructed, achieving the index value, forming the “realized niche” structure (Table 1). The weight of indices is based on a previous study and the Delphi method (Qin et al., 2012). 2) Quantitative analysis of the land demand of the urban-rural settlement niche with restrictive conditions is performed. 3) Using the integrated ecological niche fitness model, the n-dimensional space assembly of urban-rural settlement is calculated. 4) By establishing the compound ecological model, the urban-rural settlement spatial restructuring is analyzed. In addition, for a spatial continuity indicator, the standard deviation and exponential model is used to estimate suitability, such as the terrain niche and the accessibility of the central town-village. For a conceptual variable, we use an assignment expression, aspect of slope, for example.
Table 1 Suitability evaluation indicators and “realized” value in Shanghang County
Evaluation indicators Index properties Realized index value Weight Total
Range Mean value
Ecological factors X1 Continuity, has boundary conditions 0-2.96 1.37 0.153 0.441
X2 Conceptual, no boundary conditions 0.088
X3 Conceptual, no boundary conditions 0.107
X4 Conceptual, has boundary conditions 0.093
X5 Continuity, no boundary conditions 0-0.026 0.0013 0.115 0.354
X6 Continuity, no boundary conditions 0.48-8.55 3.71 0.123
X7 Continuity, no boundary conditions 0-9.90 0.99 0.116
Production factors X8/km Continuity, has boundary conditions 0-14.46 2.83 0.099 0.205
X9 Continuity, no boundary conditions 0-202.81 185.16 0.106

Annotation: X1: terrain niche; X2: aspect of slope; X3: soil erosion and geological disasters; X4: ecological function zone; X5: scale of town-village; X6: accessibility of central town-village; X7: road accessibility; X8: impact of watershed; X9: per capita arable land area and quality.

3.1.1 Terrain niche
The terrain is the most crucial factor in urban-rural settlement spatial distribution and construction in mountainous areas (Chisholm, 1972; Mubareka et al., 2008). The terrain niche synthesizes the elevation and slope, and it reflects the terrain factor comprehensively (Qu et al., 2010; Wang et al., 2013). By extracting the relevant DEM data, equation (1) was used to establish the terrain niche distribution map.
$T=\log \left[ \left( \frac{E}{{\bar{E}}}+1 \right)\times \left( \frac{S}{{\bar{S}}}+1 \right) \right]$ (1)
where T is the terrain niche index; E is the raster elevation value; Ē is the average elevation value; S and $\overline{S}$ represent raster slope value and the average slope value, respectively. In Shanghang County, the elevation range is 110-1807 m, the slope value range is 0-64.55°. The calculated terrain niche index range is 0-2.96. Generally, the urban-rural construction suitability is negatively related to the altitude and terrain steepness. As in the National Standards of Constructing Land and our previous study (Yu et al., 2016), we set 1000 m and 10° as the restrictive conditions in urban-rural construction and employed the piecewise function (2) to quantify the terrain niche fitness value (Figure 2a).
${{Y}_{2}}=\left\{ \begin{align} & 0,{{x}_{2i}}\ge 1.49 \\ & \frac{1.49-{{x}_{2i}}}{1.59-{{x}_{2\min }}},\text{ }{{x}_{2i}}<1.49 \\ \end{align} \right.$ (2)
where Y2 is the value of terrain niche fitness; x2i is the terrain niche, x2imin is the minimum value of the realistic terrain niche; and 1.49 is the threshold value of the terrain niche.
Figure 2 The fitness value results of the ecological factors
3.1.2 Aspect of slope niche
The aspect of slope reflects the impact of sunlight on the distribution of the settlements. In the Northern Hemisphere, facing south is common due to better access to sunshine. Particularly, in China, “Facing South” architectural thinking has an enormous impact on urban-rural construction and layout. The fitness value of layout construction decreases from south facing slopes to north facing slopes, i.e., from sunny to shady. We extracted the aspect of slope profiles from the DEM data, and then used the assignment expression to calculate the fitness value (Figure 2b).
3.1.3 Soil erosion and geological disaster niche
Soil erosion and geological disaster are supposed to be one of the most important niches in urban-rural distribution in mountainous areas (Hewitt, 2014; Molden et al., 2015; Zhao et al., 2013a). The types of geographical hazard in Shanghang County include debris flows, collapses, and landslides. The Geographical Hazards Detailed Profile in Shanghang County 2011, the Grade Distribution of Geological Disasters in Shanghang County, and the Soil Erosion Map in Shanghang County were all consulted. Finally, we calculated the soil and geographical disaster fitness value (Tables 3-4 and Figure 2c).
3.1.4 Ecological function zone niche
The key ecological function zone (such as national nature reserve) has important ecological value. Mountains are one of the richest regions of biological diversity, which means the urban-rural settlement optimal adjustment must consider important ecological functions (Sevenant and Antrop, 2007; Zhao et al., 2013a). Based on the National Nature Reserve Planning, the Nature Reserve Planning of Shanghang County, and the Ecological County Planning, the ecological function level distribution map of Shanghang County was calculated (Figure 2d).
3.1.5 Scale of urban-rural niche
The size of a settlement is an important niche of urban-rural development. The population density and land-use allocation affect the potential and the direction of urban-rural settlement (Chisholm, 1972; Morrill et al., 1999; Wu, 2002). According to the land use pattern of each administrative village in Shanghang County and China’s Sixth Nationwide Population Census. We extracted the land-use and population data, using function (3) to analyze the fitness value.
${{Y}_{3}}=\frac{{{x}_{3\max }}-{{x}_{3i}}}{{{x}_{3\max }}-{{x}_{3\min }}}$ (3)
where Y3 is the value of the scale of urban-rural niche fitness; x3i is realized ecological niches of the scale of the urban-rural settlement, x3max and x3min is the maximum and minimum value of the realized ecological niches. Finally, we obtain the results shown in Figure 3a.
Figure 3 The fitness value results of the living factors
3.1.6 Accessibility of central town-village niche
Central town-villages experienced the most dramatic change in the process of rapid mountainous urbanization, and the population and public infrastructure gradually moving to this area (Zhang et al., 2015). Therefore, the accessibility of the central town-villages is very important to niche appropriateness. The so-called Two-step Floating Catchment Area Method (2SFCA) is a special version of the gravitation model. One of its assumptions is that the accessibility in a certain search radius is equal, yet it does not match with the law of diminishing with distance (Luo and Whippo, 2012). Hence, Dai (2011) proposed the Gaussian-based 2SFCA, which is what we used.
The stepwise procedure for this calculation is as follows:
Step 1: for each central town-village location j, all town-village locations k that are within a threshold distance from j are searched. The ratio (Ri) of the central town-village to the town-villages is written as:
${{R}_{j}}=\frac{{{s}_{j}}}{\sum{_{k\in \left\{ {{d}_{kj}};\ \le {{d}_{0}} \right\}}G({{d}_{kj}},\ {{d}_{0}}){{D}_{k}}}}$ (4)
where dkj is the distance between j and k; Dk is the number at location k whose centroid falls into the catchment from central town-village location j; Sj is the capacity of central town-village at j; and G is the friction of distance listed below:
$G({{d}_{kj}},{{d}_{0}})=\left\{ \begin{align} & \frac{{{e}^{-(1/2)\times {{({{d}_{k}}/{{d}_{0}})}^{2}}}}-{{e}^{1(1/2)}}}{1-{{e}^{-(1/2)}}},\text{ }{{d}_{kj}}\le {{d}_{0}} \\ & 0,\text{ }{{d}_{kj}}>{{d}_{0}} \\ \end{align} \right.$ (5)
Step 2: for each town-village location i, all central town-villages j within the threshold d0 from i, were searched, thus summing up the supply and demand ratio (Rj) of the town-village to obtain the town-village’s location i and spatial accessibility$A_{i}^{F},$ as follows:
$A_{i}^{F}=\sum{_{j\in \{{{d}_{ij}}\le {{d}_{0}}\}}{{R}_{j}}}=\sum{_{j\in \{{{d}_{ij}}\le {{d}_{0}}\}}}\frac{{{S}_{j}}}{\sum{_{k\in \{{{d}_{kj}}\le {{d}_{0}}\}}G({{d}_{kj}},{{d}_{0}}){{D}_{k}}}}$ (6)
where dij is the distance between i and j; Rj is the supply and demand ratio within the town-village centroid i. The value of $A_{i}^{F}$ is positively related to accessibility (Figure 3b).
3.1.7 Road accessibility niche
Road conditions had a significant impact on the spatial evolution and restructuring of rural settlements experiencing rapid urbanization. Settlements increasingly gathered near transit lines and central town-village along with the improving of road accessibility condition (Liu et al., 2009; Ren et al., 2014). We used a traffic distribution map to conduct a buffer analysis, and the equation created by Qin et al. (2012) was used to calculate the road accessibility niche fitness, as Figure 3c shows.
3.1.8 Impact of watershed niche
The watershed provides the basic conditions for human survival: the distribution and location of human settlements begins with the accessibility to fresh water. Generally, closer to the watershed, the residents would have better production and living conditions, so more residents would live near the watershed. We use equation (7) to quantify this as follows (Figure 4a):
${{Y}_{8}}=\frac{{{x}_{8\max }}-{{x}_{8i}}}{{{x}_{8\max }}-{{x}_{8\min }}}$ (7)
where Y8 is the value of effect of watershed niche fitness; x8i is the realized ecological niche of the watershed buffer zone, x8max and x8min are the maximum and minimum values of realized ecological niches of the watershed buffer zone.
Figure 4 The fitness value results of the production factors
3.1.9 Per capita arable land area and quality niche
A certain amount of the lands suitable for farming is a prerequisite for the location of urban-rural settlements, particularly in mountainous areas. Per capita arable land area and quality has a significant influence on agricultural production and quality of living, and affects urban-rural development (Chisholm, 1972; Unwin and Nash, 1992).
Arable land quality includes soil organic matter (SOM), the effective thickness of the soil layer, and the probability of irrigation, soil texture, soil structure, and terrain slope. Soil quality grading standards were based on the fitness of staple crop growth, then using the Delphi method to determine the weights, and quantifying the land quality by the standard deviation (Qu et al., 2010):
${{Y}_{9}}=\frac{|{{x}_{9i}}-{{x}_{9ai}}|}{{{S}_{9i}}}$ (8)
${{S}_{9i}}=\sqrt{\frac{1}{m}\sum\limits_{i=1}^{m}{{{({{x}_{9i}}-{{x}_{9ai}})}^{2}}}}$ (9)
where Y9 is the value of arable land quality niche fitness, x9i is realized ecological niche of arable land quality, x9ai is the mean value of realized ecological niche of arable land quality, S9i is the standard deviation of realized ecological niche of arable land quality, and m is the number of raster (Figure 4b).

3.2 The urban-rural settlement compound ecological niche fitness

Shelford’s law of tolerance suggests that the success of the organisms is based on a complex set of conditions (Shelford, 1931; Webber et al., 2012). When the current regional conditions in the quantity or quality of urban-rural settlements are close to the threshold, this is the limiting factor. This could be, e.g., a core area of a national nature reserve. The data are normalized and weighted, then we calculate the compound ecological niche fitness value (10) (Qu et al., 2010):
$\left\{ \begin{matrix}{{x}_{n}}=0\ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ & {{x}_{ij}}=0 \\ {{x}_{n}}=\sum\limits_{i=1}^{n}{{{x}_{ij}}\times {{w}_{i}}} & {{x}_{ij}}\ne 0 \\\end{matrix} \right.$ (10)
where Xn is the urban-rural settlement compound ecological niche fitness, i is the index ecological niche fitness in each grid cell, wi is the weights of i index, and n is the number of the evaluation index.

4 Results

4.1 Evaluating results of the ecological niches of the urban-rural settlements

4.1.1 Ecological factors
The highest values of terrain niche fitness were identified in the west of the county, and characterize a distribution pattern along the Tingjiang River from north to south (Figure 2a). However, the results indicate that Shanghang County has low terrain niche fitness. Highly inappropriate areas accounted for 49.11% of the county’s area and highly appropriate areas for just 9.53%.
Based on the DEM data, we extracted aspect of slope information (Figure 2b and Table 2). The high fitness value (fitness value ≥ 0.75) and low fitness value (fitness value ≤ 0.25) of the aspect of slope were 64.05% and 12.02%, respectively.
Table 2 The quantitative results of the aspect of slope
Aspect Area proportion (%) Fitness value Aspect Area proportion (%) Fitness value
Horizontal 0.19 1.00 South 12.76 1.00
North 5.97 0.25 Southwest 12.57 1.00
Northeast 11.80 0.50 West 13.37 0.75
East 12.76 0.75 Northwest 12.11 0.50
Southeast 12.40 1.00 North 6.05 0.00
The results show that highly sensitive areas in terms of the soil erosion and high risk of geological disasters (fitness value ≤ 0.5) are 68.30% and 67.89% of the area, respectively (Tables 3 and 4). Overlay analysis revealed that the combination of low soil erosion and low geological disaster only account for 10.27% of the area (Figure 2c). This means that the suitable areas for development of urban-rural settlements in Shanghang County are limited. It also indicates that in the urban-rural settlement development and urbanization process, more attention should be paid to soil and water conservation, as well as the impacts of geological disasters.
Table 3 Soil erosion level quantitative indicator
Soil erosion sensitive level Area (km2) Area proportion (%) Fitness value
Highly sensitive 41.81 1.46 0.00
Moderately sensitive 1907.93 66.84 0.25
Slightly sensitive 718.03 25.15 0.50
General sensitive 187.02 6.55 0.75
Table 4 Geological disasters level quantitative indicator
Geological disasters level Area (km2) Area proportion (%) Fitness value
Low risk area 924.33 32.11 0.75
Moderate risk area 1600.81 55.60 0.50
High risk area 353.86 12.29 0.25
We divided Shanghang County into three kinds of areas: key ecological functional protected areas (including the core area of the national nature reserve and key water resources), general ecological functional protected areas (including agro-ecology, watershed landscapes, and eco-tourism areas), and towns and mining areas (including urban areas, town and mining areas) (Figure 2d).
4.1.2 Living factors
The size of the urban-rural settlement results shows that the most suitable area for living was the county town (county seat) and its surrounding suburban areas, followed by the areas where the township government is located. Other regions’ fitness values were significant lower (Figure 3a). Therefore, from the size of the urban-rural settlements, the urban-rural spatial restructuring and optimal control should emphasize on the central town-villages, where is the location of township government, as a support point.
Based on the 2SFCA model, high-accessibility central town-villages were primarily in the center and northeast of Shanghang County, whereas low accessibility was in the south and northwest (Figure 3b). Specifically, the high fitness value of accessibility, moderate fitness value of accessibility, low fitness value of accessibility, and extreme unfitness value of accessibility were 17.53%, 20.39%, 21.37%, and 40.71% of the area, respectively.
Road accessibility niche fitness indicates that the moderately appropriate, the highly appropriate, and highly inappropriate areas for road accessibility were 65.96%, 14.65%, and 19.39%, respectively (Figure 3c), which means that Shanghang County already has a relatively good transportation network.
4.1.3 Production factors
The grid computing results indicated that the high value of the impact of watershed niche fitness accounts for 69.63% of the area (Figure 4a). This means that Shanghang County is a good location for human settlements development from the water supply perspective. The high/low value of per capita arable land quality niche fitness is 9.91% and 90.09%, which means that Shanghang County has not enough high-quality land space for agricultural production (Figure 4b).

4.2 General evaluation of urban-rural settlements fitness value and spatial restructuring

The results revealed that the areas with a high value of fitness in Shanghang County are located in the central and northeastern parts, as well as in the river valleys (Figure 5). Specifically, the highly inappropriate, the slightly appropriate, the moderately appropriate, and the highly appropriate areas for urban-rural settlement construction in Shanghang County were 1273.2 km2 (44.69%), 906.1 km2 (31.80%), 509.4 km2 (17.88%), and 160.1 km2 (5.62%), respectively. 76.5% of Shanghang County was not suitable for urban-rural settlements, making only 23.5% suitable.
Figure 5 Classification of the urban-rural settlement lands suitability evaluation
According to the results of the suitability evaluation, we identified four types of spatial restructuring mode with the identity tool in ArcGIS 10.3 and cluster analysis, as well as landscape analysis. We divided the spatial restructuring and land consolidation into four types, which were the priority development, moderate development, limited development, and migrate-regulate areas. The area percentages of the four types of urban-rural settlements were 15.52%, 23.15%, 44.70%, and 16.63%, respectively. 61.33% of the settlements and 20.58% of the area of settlements still need to be regulated (Table 5).
Table 5 The statistics of four type’s spatial restructuring area in Shanghang County
Types Number of settlement Percentage of number (%) Area of settlement
Percentage of area (%) Mean area of settlement
Shape index AWMPFD
Priority development area 126 15.52 1290.07 14.04 10.24 1.06 1.04
Moderate development area 188 23.15 6008.39 65.38 31.96 1.03 1.05
Limited development area 363 44.70 1309.46 14.25 3.61 1.31 1.12
Migrate-regulate area 135 16.63 518.60 6.33 4.31 1.57 1.22
For the urban-rural spatial restructuring of Shanghang County on a strategic level, based on our previous analysis, we proposed the “Arrow-type” spatial restructuring and development strategy (Appendix 1). On a tactical level, advanced four types of spatial restructuring according to evaluation result, and other related studies about this county (Yu et al., 2016). We estimate that the rural areas in Shanghang County will turn into deserting villages, central town-villages (where the township government is located), and city-oriented villages. Over a long period of time, the urban-rural spatial restructuring in Shanghang County should follow these trends and patterns.

5 Discussion

5.1 Ecological niche theory has significance for urban-rural spatial restructuring

The concept of the ecological niche describes how an organism or population responds to the distribution of resources and competitors, and how this pattern, in turn, alters those same factors. A species' niche includes all of its interactions with the biotic and abiotic factors of its environment (Odum, 1983; Whittaker et al., 1973). Normally, ecological niche theory is employed in ecology and is rarely used for urban-rural spatial restructuring and land consolidation. The human settlement also has a niche, which is affected by natural and socioeconomic conditions, hence we can regard the urban-rural settlement as occupying a natural-socio-economic complex ecosystem niche (Zhao et al., 2013a). Currently, with the continuing development of industrialization and urbanization in China, Long and Liu are developing the concept of land consolidation and urban-rural spatial restructuring from the perspectives of production, living, and ecological space, which are a new platform and major tool to implement “new-type urbanization” strategies and the agricultural modernization (Liu et al., 2013; Long, 2014; Long et al., 2016). However, a solid methodology has not yet been developed to conduct empirical case studies to verify the conceptualization of the model. Many publications focus on one or two aspects of the natural, economic, or social conditions of urban-rural reconstruction, and it is challenging to reveal the holistic reality in a comprehensive manner (Tan and Li, 2013; Zhang et al., 2015). Zhao et al. (2013a) used the Maximum Entropy Method, which integrates climate, remote sensing, and geographical data to model the distributions of human settlements and assess the land suitability for transition areas. Yao and Xie. (2016) suggested that ant colony optimization algorithms and scenario simulations could be a good way to support rural spatial restructuring. Therefore, in our study, we extracted the n-dimensional hypervolumes after principal component analysis, including the ecological, living, and production factors, covering the natural frame conditions and socio-economic development conditions. Then the compound ecological model was built to analyze the potential areas of urban-rural spatial restructuring, and the results showed that ecological niche theory could be used as a valuable methodology for urban-rural spatial restructuring and land consolidation from production, living, and ecological data, particularly in mountainous areas with important ecological value.

5.2 Deserting villages in mountainous areas are different from hollowing villages in plain areas

The “hollowing village” is a distinctly Chinese urbanization phenomenon, associated with the general evolution process of rural settlements subject to urban-rural transformation. It refers to China’s residential registration system (hukou) and the collective land ownership system. It strongly affects the urban-rural landscape and rural residential land use, and it is more widespread in plain areas (Liu et al., 2010; Long and Liu, 2015). In the plain areas of North China, hollowing villages normally imply the disordered sprawling around a village, the abandonment—but not demolishment—of the center of the village, and the occupation of the fertile land, implying a food production crisis. The process of hollowing is disadvantageous for the coordination of rural-urban development, e.g., from the perspective of farmland change. About 60% of the residential land in rural areas was converted from former farmland in China, and more than 92% of the increased rural residential land was from farmland in the economically developed regions of coastal China (Deng et al., 2015; Liu et al., 2013; Long and Liu, 2015). However, in mountainous areas, as in our study, the situation is not the same. The situation happens in mountainous areas could be characterized as the “deserting village.” Both hollowing villages and deserting villages have the same driving forces and mechanisms, which includes cultural-socio-economic, institutional, managerial, and environmental factors (Long et al., 2012). However, these driving forces resulting in different characteristics and outcomes, and present positive synergies in mountainous areas. From the perspective of geography and spatial structure, in contrast to hollowing villages in plain areas, deserting villages are normally characterized by: 1) being located in a remote mountainous region; 2) housing abandonment and demolishment in the village (housing in the center of a deserting village is not just abandoned, but also demolished); 3) many small size settlements with scattered pattern (the spatial pattern of the deserting village is not like the hollowing village, which is urban sprawling around the hollowing village). In addition, the deserting villages are often characterized by the high biological values and hence often ecological sensitive areas. From the perspective of socio-economic features, the deserting village comprises demographic decline and demise, arable land and housing deserted, public-investment drop and lower income compare to the central town-village and cities. This trend is harder to reverse compare to the hollowing village, which is a significant difference between the spatial restructuring of the hollowing village and the deserting village, as well as the big challenge for the deserting village.
Specifically, the deserting village in mountainous areas means the residents always choose to move to the central town-villages (cities) to seek a better living condition based on interview and questionnaire surveys with the residents and the local authorities. The results showed that, in the remote and deserting village, because of the poor traffic conditions, low job and income levels, most of the young people perennially work and live in the central town-villages and cities. This results in the depopulation and demise of the villages and reduction of the will for public infrastructure investment. Besides, different from living in the big cities, the village residents live in the central town-village can reach equilibrium between being engaged in agricultural and forestry production and convenient access to the public services. One pilot study informed that more than 90% of the local authorities argue that the public investment could be reduced in the future to balance the trade-off and ecological conservation policy (Yu et al., 2016), e.g., to achieve the target of the National Spatial Development Pattern of China. In Fujian Province, 34 counties (including Shanghang County) account for 40.5% of the province’s total, carried out the performance evaluation of ecological conservation priority mode rather the GDP development and assess oriented.
Additionally, differs from the hollowing village, as the rural depopulation continues, more and more disused housing lands appears in rural communities and left unchecked villages can fall into ‘vanishing degeneration’. But the deserting village in mountainous areas could be a positive trend not just for the ecological conservation but also for the improvement of living conditions for the local residents because of this natural socio-economic process that the residents who live in remote village moving to the central town-village or small city could improve the living standard and more access to the public services. Thus, this process is positive synergies in mountainous urbanization, or it can be called ‘vanishing evolution’. Hence, when we describe village shrinking, the critical aspect of understanding of ‘hollowing village’ and ‘deserting village’ is that two of this have a different meaning in the urbanization process of China. Furthermore, the deserting village could represent the ecological and social benefits, and more attention should be paid to evaluate the effectiveness of future studies and practices if the hollowing village indicates the socio-economic deficiency.

5.3 The central town-village in mountainous areas proved to be the optimized mode

It is still a big controversy which size of cities is best for human settlements from the economic and ecological perspectives. Some studies argued that small towns (cities) play a positive role in rural transformation development, and regard their roles as the “urban functions in rural development” (Belsky and Karaska, 1990; Li, 2012). Economists offered the criticism that small towns and cities do not comply with the law of economics and usually represent the inefficient use of resources, e.g., land use per person and energy consumption per capita. Some ecologists believe that small towns can achieve both environmental protection and meet human needs. Meanwhile, planners like Le Corbusier disagree and argue that urban dispersion and small town construction will be a disaster for ecological conservation. For instance, in China, due to the collective land ownership system and the pressures of economic growth, the local authorities change the agricultural land to urban land use in small towns, resulting in large cultivated area being occupied, thereby causing the out-of-balance social-ecological system (Corbusier, 1987; Deng et al., 2015).
In Shanghang County, 76.50% of the area is not suitable for the urban-rural settlements construction, whereas only 23.50% is. The suitable areas are distributed in the central and northeastern parts, as well as in the central town-villages and river valleys. Therefore, we suggested that urban-rural spatial restructuring should be based on this pattern. Meanwhile, we summarized the changing mode of rural settlements in Shanghang County, including the deserting village, central town-village, and city-oriented village (Figure 6). Additionally, using remote sensing images and spatial analysis of Shanghang County during 2004-2014, it was found that central town-villages’ (where the township government is located) landscapes change more significantly than general settlements. Table 6 shows that the mean area of general settlements increased by 2.3 times, yet the mean area of the central town-villages increased by 4.59 times, and the mean value of perimeters of central town-village increased 250 times. All of these results support the hypothesis that central town-villages in mountainous area are key disturbance areas and it is also in line with the general law of development of mountainous urbanization (Zhang and Zhai, 2013). Meanwhile, through interviews and surveys with local authorities and residents, we concluded that the central town-village would play a positive role in urban-rural transformation and ecological conservation, as well as improve production and living conditions, and coordinate urban-rural development. In mountainous areas, the central town-villages and small cities would be the best means to unify human and nature as opposed to the situation characterized by sprawling cities (Fan et al., 2013). However, due to mountainous areas often being characterized by high biodiversity, rich cultural value, and ecological sensitivity, and as such being much harder to recover than other regions (Pôças et al., 2011), scientists and policymakers should pay more attention to evaluating environmental capacity and ecological thresholds in the process of urban-rural spatial restructuring and the central town-village construction.
Figure 6 The images of three modes of change in rural settlements from the Google Earth
Table 6 Landscape metrics analysis of urban-rural settlements in 2004 and 2014
Year Mean area of general settlement (hm2) Mean area of center town- village (hm2) Mean value of perimeter of central town-village (m) Mean value of perimeter-area ratio of central town-village Shape index of central town-village AWMPFD
2004 4.88 60.15 2576.12 122.71 1.21 1.06
2014 11.32 276.25 645080.18 74.01 1.54 1.07
To sum up, central town-villages experienced the most significant change in urban-rural settlement, and attract more and more people from “deserting villages.” Therefore, some preferential policies and measures should be implemented in the future.

6 Conclusions and suggestions

So far, the process of industrialization and urbanization in China associated with greater globalization is continuing, accompanied by China’s economy entering a new stage of development (so-called New Normal), as well as the “New Countryside” and “New-type Urbanization” strategies. In this context, urban-rural spatial restructuring and land consolidation have been embraced as the main strategy. Spatial problem-solving land management tools to alleviate the tension between urban-rural development and the needs of residents are needed to improve rural production and living conditions, and to coordinate urban-rural development. However, rural development and urbanization vary under different socio-geographic conditions, e.g., plain areas, coastal areas, and mountainous areas; or rural areas near the city compared to remote areas. Additionally, new legislation and regulations would also affect this process. For instance, total ownership of the rural land in China will be separated into land-use rights, contract rights, and operating rights. The consequences of these changes demand further investigation.
In this study, we mainly focused on mountainous areas, where rapid urbanization and dramatic changes in socio-economic conditions were experienced. To strengthen the scientific approach, we use the ecological niche model to quantify the urban-rural spatial restructuring in mountainous areas. We argue that this approach could be a valuable methodology in the conceptual model of rural spatial restructuring, as proposed by Long and Liu in 2016. In this case, the compound ecological niche model demonstrated that the most areas of Shanghang County are not suitable for urban-rural settlement construction. The areas that were highly inappropriate, slightly appropriate, moderately appropriate, and highly appropriate for urban-rural settlement construction were 1273.2 km2 (44.69%), 906.1 km2 (31.80%), 509.4 km2 (17.88%), and 160.1 km2 (5.62%), respectively. Based on ecological niche analysis, we divided spatial restructuring and land consolidation into four types, which are the priority development, moderate development, limited development, and migrate-regulate areas. The percentages of the area for the four types of urban-rural settlements are 15.52%, 23.15%, 44.70%, and 16.63%, respectively. Some 61.33% of the settlements and 20.58% of the areas of settlements still need to be regulated. We also propose that, in contrast to the hollowing village in plain areas, the deserting village (vanishing evolutionary) in mountainous areas plays positive synergistic roles in urban-rural integrative development and urbanization, though both have the same driving forces and mechanisms. We also suggest that, if the hollowing village in the plain areas represents socio-economic deficiency, then the deserting village could be characterized by having ecological and social benefits. To balance ecological conservation, the improvement of production and living conditions, the cost of infrastructure investments, and coordination of the urban-rural development strategy, we argue that central town-villages will be the main settlements and more and more local residents who lived in deserting villages will move to them. Because mountainous areas normally have high ecological value and are ecologically sensitive, environmental capacity and ecological thresholds need to be taken into consideration in the central town-village construction process.
Urban-rural spatial restructuring and land consolidation, as well as the ‘increasing vs. decreasing balance’ land-use policy in mountainous areas, are indispensable ways to optimize the production, living, and ecological space on agriculture land and combat the deserting village effect and industrial and mining land consolidation. We hope that this study can add to regional geography and urbanization theory, as well as the hollowing village theory proposed by Liu and Long in 2015. We also hope this methodology and empirical study can apply to regional planning and land-use management.

Additional information

Supplementary information accompanies this paper online.

Appendix 1

For urban-rural spatial restructuring of Shanghang County on a strategic level, based on our previous analysis, we proposed the “Arrow-type” spatial restructuring strategy.
To more clearly explain the reason why we proposed the “Arrow-type” urban-rural spatial restructuring strategy in Shanghang County (Figure 1). I would like to introduce the more specific background of Shanghang County.
This strategy in line with the topographic condition. The south-north direction along the Tingjiang River, which is the valley area. For the northeast direction, the areas are also rather flat than other areas in Shanghang County.
This strategy in line with the development planning of Shanghang County. In the northeast of Shanghang County, we plan to build a new development area.
This strategy in line with the high-speed railway planning. A high-speed railway will go through Shanghang County; one railway station (Gutian station) is in the northeast of Shanghang.
We interviewed local authorities, urban planners, interest groups and local residents, as well as read many (planning and development) materials related to Shanghang County, Longyan City, and Fujian Province. Finally, on a strategy level, we proposed this “Arrow-type” spatial restructuring and development strategy.
Figure 1 Urban-rural spatial restructuring and development direction in Shanghang County

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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Lo K, Xue L, Wang M, 2016. Spatial restructuring through poverty alleviation resettlement in rural China.Journal of Rural Studies, 47: 496-505.Poverty alleviation resettlement (PAR) is one of China key poverty reduction initiatives. Through this state-led resettlement programme, the government aims to improve the living standards and access to infrastructure and services of the rural poor. This paper examines PAR from the perspective of spatial restructuring through a household survey conducted in Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces. A total of 30 resettlement sites were examined. The results show that PAR has two spatial forms: long-distance resettlement, which resettles people to cities or towns, and short-distance resettlement, which resettles people within the administrative boundaries of their village or to a nearby village. Furthermore, the type of spatial restructuring is an important factor shaping the outcome of resettlement. While long-distance resettlement outperforms short-distance resettlement in terms of gains in income, the advantage is offset by higher post-resettlement expenses. Furthermore, long-distance resettlers face a greater challenge in securing non-agricultural employment. Consequently, the level of satisfaction is lower among long-distance resettlers. Significant challenges remain to be addressed for both types of resettlement, including establishing two-way communication between villagers and the government about resettlement plans and providing better financial support for the resettlers, safeguards for the livelihoods of non-movers, and post-resettlement support programmes to help resettlers adjust to their new environments.


Long H L, 2012. Land use transition and rural transformation development.Progress in Geography, 31(2): 131-138. (in Chinese)Recently,related researches on land use transition combining with the characteristics of China socio-economic development have been carried out rapidly since the research field of land use transition was introduced to China.Land use morphology is the key content of land use transition research.However,the concept and connotation of land use morphology has been developed continuously with the in-depth research and socio-economic change and innovation.Based on the analysis of the evolvement of the concept and connotation of land use morphology,this paper argues that there are two formats for depicting land use morphology: one is dominant morphology,and the other is recessive morphology.The dominant land use morphology refers to the quantity,structure and spatial pattern of land use,and the recessive land use morphology includes the land-use features in the aspects such as quality,property rights,management mode,fixed input and productive ability.Then,a conceptualization of the models of land use transition was annotated based on the two formats of land use morphology.Land use transition refers to the changes in land use morphology of a certain region over a certain period of time driven by socio-economic change and innovation,and it usually corresponds to the transition of socio-economic development phase.Rural transformation development means the restructuring of rural socio-economic morphology and territorial spatial patterns resulted from local actors esponses and readjustments to the change,recombination and interaction of socio-economic development factors and rural-urban migration in the process of rapid urbanization and industrialization,including the changes in traditional rural industries,the employment mode,the consumption structure,and the social structure.Such transformation radically changes the urban-rural relationship and the relationship between agriculture and industry.Since farmland and rural settlement are the engines driving land use transition and rural transformation development,the interaction between rural transformation development and farmland and rural settlement transition was analyzed to understand the relationship between land use transition and rural transformation development.Finally,the future research fields concerning land use transition and rural transformation development were suggested as follows: the dynamic pattern and territorial type of land use transition and rural transformation development;the interaction and dynamical mechanism of land use transition and rural transformation development;the resources and environment effects of land use transition and rural transformation development;and the ways and countermeasures of optimizing and adjusting land use transition and rural transformation development.


Long H L, 2014. Land consolidation: An indispensable way of spatial restructuring in rural China.Journal of Geographical Sciences, 24(2): 211-225.The implementation of new type industrialization and urbanization and agricultural modernization strategies lacks of a major hand grip and spatial supporting platform, due to long-term existed "dual-track" structure of rural-urban development in China as well as unstable rural development institution and mechanism. It is necessary to restructure rural production, living and ecological space by carrying out land consolidation, so as to establish a new platform for building new countryside and realizing urban-rural integration development in China. This paper develops the concept and connotation of rural spatial restructuring. Basing on the effects analysis of industrialization and urbanization on rural production, living and ecological space, the mechanism of pushing forward rural spatial restructuring by carrying out land consolidation is probed. A conceptualization of the models of rural production, living and ecological spatial restructuring is analyzed combining with agricultural land consolidation, hollowed villages consolidation and industrial and mining land consolidation. Finally, the author argues that a "bottom-up" restructuring strategy accompanied by a few "top-down" elements is helpful for smoothly pushing forward rural spatial restructuring in China. In addition, the optimization and restructuring of rural production, living and ecological space will rely on the innovations of regional engineering technology, policy and mechanism, and mode of rural land consolidation, and more attentions should be paid to rural space, the foundation base and platform for realizing urban-rural integration development.


Long H L, Li Y, Liu Yet al., 2012. Accelerated restructuring in rural China fueled by ‘increasing vs. decreasing balance’ land-use policy for dealing with hollowed villages.Land Use Policy, 29(1): 11-22.Rapid industrialization and urbanization in China has produced a unique phenomenon of ‘village-hollowing’, shaped by the dual-track structure of socio-economic development. This paper analyzes the phenomenon of ‘village-hollowing’, identifying the processes and influences that have driven their evolution, and highlighting the challenge that the locking-up of unused rural housing land in ‘hollowed villages’ presents for China in the context of concerns over urban development and food security. The paper examines the ‘increasing vs. decreasing balance’ land-use policy has been adopted by the Chinese government in response to the problem, which seeks to balance increases in urban construction land with a reduction in rural construction land. The implementation of the scheme is discussed through a case study of Huantai county in Shandong province, drawing attention to its contested and contingent nature. It is argued that the policy is a top-down approach to rural restructuring that necessarily requires the acquiescence of local actors. However, it is noted that failures to adequate engage with local actors has led to resistance to the policy, including violent protests against the demolition of housing. The paper suggests that lessons might be learned from Europe by incorporating elements of ‘bottom-up’ planning into the process. As such, the paper demonstrates that rural restructuring in China is a dynamic, multi-scalar and hybrid process that shares common elements and experiences with rural restructuring in Europe and elsewhere, but which is also strongly shaped by the distinctive political, economic, social and cultural context of China.


Long H L, Liu Y S, 2015. A brief background to rural restructuring in China: A forthcoming special issue of Journal of Rural Studies.Journal of Geographical Sciences, 25(10): 1279-1280.Rural China has experienced a rapid and far-reaching transition in the past three or four decades since Deng Xiaoping launched economic reforms in 1978.As China evolves into a majority urban country,these processes present a number of challenges to the rural areas which have been confronted with significant changes and subsequent restructuring of rural socio-economic morphology and territorial spatial patterns,including changes in demographic structures,employment opportunities,community organization,lifestyles and standards of living,accessibility,rural culture as well as the restructuring of rural industries and rural production,living and ecological space (Woods,2005;Long et al.,2012;Long,2014).


Long H L, Liu Y S, 2016. Rural restructuring in China.Journal of Rural Studies, 47: 387-391.


Long H L, Tu S, Ge Det al., 2016. The allocation and management of critical resources in rural China under restructuring: Problems and prospects.Journal of Rural Studies, 47: 392-412.Rapid and far-reaching development transition has triggered corresponding restructuring in rural China especially since the turn of the new millennium. Recently, there has been an increasing trend emphasizing regional resources in formulating rural development policy and restructuring rural areas. This paper analyzes the rural restructuring in China affected by the allocation and management of critical resources including human resource, land resource and capital, by establishing a theoretical framework of “elements-structure-function” of rural territorial system. It is argued that rural restructuring is a process of optimizing the allocation and management of the material and non-material elements affecting the development of rural areas and accomplishing the structure optimization and the function maximum of rural development system. Due to the constraints from the maintained urban–rural dualism of land ownership and household registration, the rapid rural restructuring under both globalization and the implementation of the national strategies on industrialization, urbanization, informatization and agricultural modernization, the changes of the allocation of critical resources have brought about many problems and challenges for the future development of rural China, such as the nonagriculturalization, non-grain preference and abandonment of farmland use together with the derelict and idle rural housing land, the weakening mainbody of rural development, the unfair urban–rural allocation of capital and its structural imbalance, and so on. Aiming at how to resolve the problems and adapt to the challenges, it is pivotal to restructure the rural development space, rural industry, and rural social organization and management mainbody. Furthermore, it is necessary to restructure the contours of state intervention in rural societies and economies and allocate and manage the critical resources affecting rural development, from the perspectives of integrating urban and rural resources, improving the efficiency of resources utilization, and fully understanding the influences of globalization on rural restructuring in China.


Long H L, Zou J, Pykett Jet al., 2011. Analysis of rural transformation development in China since the turn of the new millennium.Applied Geography, 31(3): 1094-1105.Since the turn of the new millennium, the Chinese central government has focused significant attention on substantially improving rural residents’ well-being and achieving the coordinated development of urban and rural areas. This paper examines China’s Highlights? Three assessing indicator systems were used to examine China's rural transformation development. ? Rural China has experienced universal and intense transformative development since 2000. ? China's urban--rural coordination development declined greatly between 2000 and 2008. ? Improving policies aimed at various types might be effective way to shape a more coordinated development pattern.


Luo W, Whippo T, 2012. Variable catchment sizes for the two-step floating catchment area (2SFCA) method.Health & place, 18(4): 789-795.Abstract Government efforts designed to help improve healthcare access rely on accurate measures of accessibility so that resources can be allocated to truly needy areas. In order to capture the interaction between physicians and populations, various access measures have been utilized, including the popular two-step floating catchment area (2SFCA) method. However, despite the many advantages of 2SFCA, the problems associated with using fixed catchment sizes have not been satisfactorily addressed. We propose a new method to dynamically determine physician and population catchment sizes by incrementally increasing the catchment until a base population and a physician-to-population ratio are met. Preliminary application to the ten-county region in northern Illinois has demonstrated that the new method is effective in determining the appropriate catchment sizes across the urban to suburban/rural continuum and has revealed greater detail in spatial variation of accessibility compared to results using fixed catchment sizes. Copyright 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


McGranahan G, Balk D, Anderson B, 2007. The rising tide: assessing the risks of climate change and human settlements in low elevation coastal zones.Environment and Urbanization, 19(1): 17-37.


Molden D, Hurni H, von Dach S Wet al., 2015. Focus issue: Vulnerability and resilience to natural hazards and disasters in mountains.Mountain Research and Development, 35(2): 103-103.Molden, D.; Hurni, H.; Von Dach, S. W.; Zimmermann, A. B.


Morrill R, Cromartie J, Hart G, 1999. Metropolitan, urban, and rural commuting areas: Toward a better depiction of the United States settlement system.Urban Geography, 20(8): 727-748.


Mubareka S, Ehrlich D, Bonn Fet al., 2008. Settlement location and population density estimation in rugged terrain using information derived from Landsat ETM and SRTM data.International Journal of Remote Sensing, 29(8): 2339-2357.It is useful to have a disaggregated population database at uniform grid units in disaster situations. This study presents a method for settlement location probability and population density estimations at a 9002m resolution for northern Iraq using the Shuttle Radar Topographic Mission (SRTM) digital terrain model and Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper satellite imagery. A spatial model each for calculating the probability of settlement location and for estimating population density is described. A randomly selected subset of field data (equivalent to 50%) is first analysed for statistical links between settlement location probability and population density; and various biophysical features which are extracted from Landsat or SRTM data. The model is calibrated using this subset. Settlement location probability is attributed to the distance from roads and water bodies and land cover. Population density can be estimated based upon land cover and topographic features. The Landsat data are processed using a segmentation and subsequent feature–based classification approach making this method robust to seasonal variations in imagery and therefore applicable to a time series of images regardless of acquisition date. The second half of the field data is used to validate the model. Results show a reasonable estimate of population numbers (r02=020.205, p<0.001) for both rural and urban settlements. Although there is a strong overall correlation between the results of this and the LandScan model (r02=020.464, p<0.001), this method performs better than the 102km resolution LandScan grid for settlements with fewer than 1000 people, but is less accurate for estimating population numbers in urban areas (LandScan rural r02=020.181, p<0.001; LandScan urban r02=020.303, p<0.001). The correlation between true urban population numbers is superior to that of LandScan however when the 9002m grid values are summed using a filter which corresponds to the LandScan spatial resolution (r02=020.318, p<0.001).


Nie Y, Yu J, Cui C, 2012. Research on suitability evaluation of garden land in Yiling District based on GIS and niche-fitness model.Resources and Environment in the Yangtze Basin, 21(8): 1000-1005. (in Chinese)The Niche-fitness theory is a further development of the classical niche theory and an extension of the related methods.The niche-fitness model developed on the basis of niche can reflect the fitness degree of crops to environmental conditions relatively well.It can also be utilized to analyze factors restricting the growth of crops.However,there is little work on suitability evaluation especially multi-suitability evaluation on tillage by applying the niche-fitness theory.Under the guidance of the theory of sustainable development for Chinese agriculture,this paper aimed to use niche-fitness model to assess suitability degree and limiting factors of garden land in Yiling District of Hubei Province in China.Firstly,the index system of suitability evaluation was established including 5 sub-goals and 12 indices.Then,in order to normalize the measured value,indicators were categorized into numerical type,linguistic type and spatial diffusion type according to their attributes.After constructing the suitability evaluation models,the degree of suitability for garden land was classified into 4 levels,where the niche-fitness value ranged from 0.372 to 0.893 with a maximum of 0.893;one level and two level were predominant portions with their areas accounting for 62.92 percent of the total.Four level with lower suitability and quality accounted for 6.43 percent of the total.The soil texture,average temperature of the coldest month and accessibility of road were the primary limiting factors and important issues of agriculture management.The results can be used as a quantitative basis in evaluation of garden land quality and resolution of the land reasonable utilization in this region.On the other hand,the research can extended and deepened theory and methodology of traditional land suitability evaluation subject.


Odum E P, 1983. Basic Ecology. Saunders College Pub,Philadelphia.

Peng L, Liu S, Sun L, 2016. Spatial-temporal changes of rurality driven by urbanization and industrialization: A case study of the Three Gorges Reservoir Area in Chongqing, China.Habitat International, 51: 124-132.China is transitioning from a traditional agrarian society into a modern industrial urban society. The main objective of this study is to establish a simple index to characterize the integrated transformation in a fixed area during China's process of urbanization and industrialization. This research focuses on key aspects of the urban rural integration that is occurring land usage, production efficiencies, employment, and household registration structures to establish a "Relative Rurality Index" (RRI). It assesses these measures in the Three Gorges Reservoir Area of Chongqing (TGRAC). This index is not used to identify absolute urban or rural zones spatially, but to represent the gradients between the min a fixed area. RRI evaluations conducted in 2000 and 2010 indicate that a decade of development has led to an across-the-board decline in rurality in all TGRAC counties. Imbalances in area developments have also increased, with a clear rurality spatial differential, and basic correspondence between the spatial distribution of rurality and the urbanization of strategic deployments. Policy and non-Linear regression analyses show that changes in the rurality of the TGRAC are consistent with the derivative of the central government's strategic programs and policies. In short, the urban rural system in the TGRAC has undergone deep and lasting change. The results of this study show that the rurality characterized by RRI is both more accurate and comprehensive than the urbanization level presented in government statistics. Based on an in-depth analysis of the urban rural systems, this study provides an effective framework for policy-making that will support healthy urbanization and industrialization in China. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Pôças I, Cunha M, Marcal A Ret al., 2011. An evaluation of changes in a mountainous rural landscape of Northeast Portugal using remotely sensed data.Landscape and Urban Planning, 101(3): 253-261.Image data from Earth Observation Satellites (EOS) were used to analyse mountain landscape changes in Northeast Portugal. Three Landsat images, from April 30th 1979, March 14th 1989 and May 29th 2002 were used. A supervised classification was performed for each image based on the radiometric information and the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). Eleven classes were selected considering the main land cover types in the region. The classification results showed high overall accuracy (above 92.5%) and kappa coefficient (above 0.91). Broadly, the range of dates of the Landsat images used allowed for the differentiation between classes. Nevertheless, some problems occurred in differentiating between classes of forest and shrub vegetation due to similar characteristics and vegetation conditions in some periods of the year, and also due to the effects of topographic shadows associated to mountain areas. Meadows and annual crops were the classes having greater changes from 1979 to 2002: meadows area increased 60% while annual crops decreased 43.5%. The increase in meadows area was likely due to policies supporting agroenvironmental conservation and autochthon bovine livestock production. Differently, the decrease in annual crops was likely due to the loss of economical competitiveness of main annual crops and to the rural population decrease and ageing, which favoured the replacement of arable lands by permanent meadows. These results may help developing policies and measures for sustainable management of traditional mountain rural landscapes.


Qin T T, Qi W, Li Y Qet al., 2012. Suitability evaluation of rural residential land based on niche theory in mountainous area.Acta Ecologica Sinica, 32(16): 5175-5183. (in Chinese)The rural residential land often scattered in distribution especially in mountainous areas,which was restricted by terrain factors such as slope and elevation with lower intensive degree of utilization,imperfect infrastructure and lower utilization rate of public service resources.Niche is the total aggregation of living conditions of biological units,which reflects the space,position and function of the individual and population in ecological systems.Rural residential land is the compound carrier for production and living.The suitability evaluation of rural residential land with niche theory can not only reflect the suitable degree of all kinds of economic and production activities,but also indicate the importance of rural residential land in regional ecological system.Qixia City is located in the central of Shandong Peninsula,which is typical of hilly terrain and has the characteristics of intensive mountainous area.According to the requirements of new countryside construction and characteristics of rural residential land in Qixia City,11 relevant indicators were selected from ecological,productive and living conditions to establish the index system for rural residential land suitability evaluation.Geological disaster,terrain,slope,and water effect were selected as ecological indexes;ratio of industry and commerce land,accessibility of industry and commerce land,cultivated land and garden land area,and accessibility of cultivated land and garden land were selected as productive indexes;road accessibility,rural residential land area,accessibility of town center were selected as living indexes.Accessibility can be summarized as the ability from origin point to attract point by certain transportation,which is deeply affected by the land use and closely related to the concepts of location,space interaction and space scale.On the basis of established evaluation index system,suitability grades were determined by a combination method of accessibility calculation,cluster analysis and suitability evaluation.After that the rural residential land was overlaid with the suitability grades and was divided into key development type,moderate development type,restricted expansion type and prior remediation type based on the suitability evaluation results and cluster analysis,which accounted for 35.19%,35.10%,20.29%,and 9.42% respectively.The key development type has superior geographical position,convenient transportation and relatively perfect infrastructure,which is suggested to orderly adjust the internal structure and promote land intensive use.The moderate development type is still in primary stage with more idle land and extensive land use,which is suggested to stimulate deposit land and recycle use the old residential land and idle land.The restricted expansion type is restricted by complicated topography,poor agriculture production and living conditions,which is suggested to maintain the current status,guide the population to move-out and make the old homestead retreat.The prior remediation type is restricted by high relief,fragile ecological environment,isolated to water source and inconvenient transportation;the suggestion of this type is to move the villages.Furthermore,the characteristics of rural residential land use were concluded and corresponding regulation and control measures were suggested.The results showed the current situation and suitability of rural residential land.This study provided theoretical foundations of optimizing the layout of rural residential land,enriched the application of niche theory in different fields and had guiding significance for the consolidation and optimum distribution of mountainous rural residential land.


Qu Y B, Zhang F R, Jiang G Het al., 2010. Suitability evaluation and subarea control and regulation of rural residential land based on niche.Transactions of the CSAE, 26(11): 290-296. (in Chinese)In this paper,with the analysis of ecological niche characteristics of rural residential land,relevant indicators were selected for considering the ecological conditions,production conditions and living conditions. Taking Pinggu district as study area,with the help of niche-fitness model and GIS,single-factor quantitative analysis and multi-factor comprehensive evaluation were used to divide the district into highly suitable,medium suitable,low levels of appropriate and inappropriate for rural residential land use,as well as key development areas,moderate potential areas,restricted expansion areas and priority remediation areas were formed for 275 administrative villages based on the results of suitable evaluation and cluster analysis method. Furthermore the characteristics of the regional land use were concluded and corresponding regulation and control modes were suggested. The results reflect the land use suitability and current trend,accord with local conditions and share a strong guiding significance for the consolidation of rural residential area and rural land-use planning.


Ren P, Hong B T, Liu Yet al., 2014. A study of spatial evolution characteristics of rural settlements and influences of landscape patterns on their distribution using GIS and RS.Acta Ecologica Sinica, 34(12): 3331-3340. (in Chinese)Abstract Forms of human habitation within rural settlements are a major component of rural landscapes. The spatial patterns and evolutionary characteristics of rural settlements are influenced by multiple factors, including natural, social, and economic elements. It is, therefore, important not only to properly identify and assess the spatial distribution patterns and evolutionary modes of rural settlements, but also to uncover causative laws and influential factors behind their evolution. This can facilitate scientific rural planning and enhance optimal distribution of urban and rural land resources. Our study is based on a series of digitalized vector data, including the locations of rural settlements, land slopes, rivers, and road networks obtained from remote sensing (RS) images of the city of Dujiangyan in Sichuan Province for 2005 and 2010. We applied analytical techniques derived from Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and RS to quantitatively analyze the processes, patterns, and trends of spatial evolution in rural settlements. Specifically, we explored landscape pattern indexes to examine in depth the factors influencing the distribution characteristics of rural settlements in the study area. Our results showed that: 1) In general, while there was significant clustering in the spatial distribution of rural settlements in Dujiangyan during both 2005 and 2010, this settlement pattern was even more significant in 2010. Along with an increase in the spatial scale, the degree of the clustering tendency also increased, reaching a maximum value at a scale of 13 km. 2) The presence of land slopes, roads, and rivers significantly influenced the distribution of rural settlements in Dujiangyan as evidenced by the following findings. More than 80% of settlements were located in areas with slopes of less than 10 degrees; over 50% of settlements were located within 500 m from a road network; and almost 60% were distributed within 1000 m of a river. 3) In 2005 as well as 2010, there was no obvious change in the concentrated locations of clusters, which were consistently found in the southeastern region of Dujiangyan City. However, during both time periods, fewer settlements were found in the townships of Hongkou, Longchi, and Qingcheng Mountain. The reason for this imbalance in the spatial distribution of rural settlements was that besides the influence by natural factors such as the landscape, the distribution patterns of rural settlements in Dujiangyan were also closely associated with several planning elements. These included a policy of protecting national regions of scenic interest and a World Cultural Heritage site located in the city, the rural land comprehensive consolidation projects and post-earthquake reconstruction planning. 4) Based on the above findings on factors that influence the distribution of rural settlements, our research suggests that comprehensive consideration of topographical and geological conditions is required for optimal adjustment of rural settlement patterns. Scientific planning procedures can promote the relocation of rural residents from villages to townships and urban areas, and help to lessen disruption in environmentally protected regions. They can also reinforce the effective use of land resources and increase land supporting capabilities. We expect our research to provide a methodological reference for similar research conducted in the future. It can also provide a theoretical and practical reference for rural land-related decision-making and technical support, for example, dynamic monitoring of changes in rural settlements, assessments of rural land consolidation, and the "New Socialist Countryside" rural planning policy.


Sevenant M, Antrop M, 2007. Settlement models, land use and visibility in rural landscapes: Two case studies in Greece.Landscape and Urban Planning, 80(4): 362-374.Settlement models and geographical site analysis contribute to the understanding of the ecological functioning of the landscape. In assessing land qualities, there is an increasing interest to include visibility analysis. The hypothesis is that settlements traditionally locate on places where the more fertile and intensively used grounds can easily be controlled. This can be tested in traditional landscapes where the initial settlement pattern and associated visibility are not very disturbed. This paper analyses two cases of traditional settlements in Greece, on the island of Paros (Cyclades) and on the Lassithi plain (Crete), which are exemplary for two distinct settlement models, respectively the island and the basin model. The relationship between settlement pattern, land use zoning and landscape visibility is analysed using a geographical information system (GIS). Cumulative and single viewshed analysis are performed for all settlements in the study areas using different distance zones, one in the visible proximity up to 1.2 km and one more extended in the landscape up to 4.7 km. Both cases show great degree of visual control of the territory. Intensively used land is significantly more visible. The relationship between visibility and land use varies however with the viewing distance and settlement model. Visibility is a factor explaining the settlement pattern.


Shelford V E, 1931. Some concepts of bioecology.Ecology, 12(3): 455-467.CiteSeerX - Scientific documents that cite the following paper: Some concepts of bioecology


Tan M, Li X, 2013. The changing settlements in rural areas under urban pressure in China: Patterns, driving forces and policy implications.Landscape and Urban Planning, 120: 170-177.Rural areas under urban pressure (rural areas under pressure) in China face a growing conflict between the expansion of developed areas and the protection of cropland. The concentration of rural settlements has been embraced by local governments as a strategy to alleviate the conflict between these two land-use needs. This paper used Daxing District, Beijing, China as a case study to discuss the evolution of rural settlements in China over the past three decades and to consider the policy implications for rural settlement concentration. The results showed that: (1) over the past three decades, rural settlements have remained evenly distributed, and in 2007 each settlement had an average of 609 inhabitants; (2) the area of rural settlements has increased by approximately 100% because of various factors such as decreasing household size, increasing numbers of migrants, and improvements in living conditions; and (3) the shape of rural settlements has become more regular. These factors pose challenges to concentrating rural settlements. This study recommends that rural settlement concentration and restructuring should pay special attention to the economies of scale of market towns and large and merged villages, which can house larger populations and better accommodate industry in the future. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Unwin T, Nash B, 1992. Township boundaries: Theoretical considerations and analytical implications.The Transformation of the European Rural Landscape: Methodological Issues and Agrarian Change, 1914: 116-127.

Wang C, Fei Z, Ye Qet al., 2014. Rural settlement space reconstruction strategy and implementation based on symbiosis theory on village scale.Transactions of the Chinese Society of Agricultural Engineering, 30(3): 205-214. (in Chinese)Rural residential areas are an extensive dispersion with localized concentrations, and the area of land utilization per capita is large in Dazhu village in Hechuan of Chongqing. Inefficient utilization of rural residential areas is an adverse process all over China during the urban-rural transitional period, especially in traditional agricultural areas. The space reconstruction of a rural residential area could be a breakthrough in the rational utilization of land resources, advancing new countryside construction, restructuring village space, and promoting urban-rural integration and development. This paper used the symbiotic theory to establish a rural residential restructuring symbiotic system. The system included rural residential areas as a symbiotic unit, and the policy environment and the village-domain environment as symbiotic environment. Due to the mutual functional differences of symbiotic units, village spatial reconstruction should consider a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship between the units, namely the mutualism mode. The research analyzed a rural residential restructuring symbiotic system, and made clear the restructuring principles and procedure needed to build the space reconstruction strategy of a rural settlement. The thesis selected the demonstration village of the whole village advancement azhu village in Hechuan of Chongqing as the object of empirical study. It built three kinds of functional groups roductivity-oriented, service-oriented, and living-oriented groups, a space representation of which was already presented in the village, and formed the layout of ne axis and three groups' at the the village scale. The results showed that: first, adopting the rural residential restructuring symbiotic system analysis accords with the reality of Dazhu village to restructure village space. It further showed that the symbiotic theory has strong applicability to space reconstruction of a rural settlement. Secondly, the results of the empirical study showed that the space reconstruction of a rural settlement, which is based on the symbiotic strategy, can both ensure the inter-operability of a rural settlement and respect the principal position of farmers. It realizes hared resources, co-constructed environment' and exploits environmental advantages in the village domain. It can also improve the utilization efficiency of rural residential areas. Through the study of the demonstration village, the paper provides a scientific basis for formulating village space reconstruction and a new approach to the whole village advancement in a hilly area and the beautiful village construction. Due to the fact that the factors which influence rural residential restructuring are very complex, the regional social, economic, and environmental development strategies and resource endowment conditions which are expected to be considered comprehensively, need to be studied further. Different types of household willingness and future livelihoods also require deeper study.


Wang Y Y, Li Y B, Gan C Het al., 2013. Evolution of cultivated land in center region of the Three Gorges Reservoir Area based on terrain factors: A case study of Caotangxi watershed.Chinese Journal of Ecology, 32(7): 1903-1911. (in Chinese)Based on the remote sensing images in 1990,2000,2004,and 2007 and the 1 50000 DEM,and by using software ArcGIS 9.3 and Fragstas 3.3,this paper studied the evolution of cultivated land in Caotangxi watershed,a center region of Three Gorges Reservoir Area.The database of the cultivated land in Caotangxi watershed was established,and the slope,elevation,and terrain niche index were produced.Then,the slope gradient,elevation gradient,and terrain niche gradient were calculated with the database of the cultivated land so as to discuss the distribution characteristics of the cultivated land at different terrain gradients according to the dimensionless distribution index.The results showed that the cultivated land in the watershed was mainly distributed in the slope gradient range of 15-35,elevation range of 500-1000 m,southeast and south slopes,and in middle and high terrain gradient.An obvious change in the area and spatial distribution of cultivated land took place in the study area in 1990-2007.With the increasing terrain gradient index,the distribution area of cultivated land increased first and decreased then.The remarkable reduction in the aggregation index of cultivated land was mainly in the fourth and fifth terrain niche gradients(1.2-1.5 and 1.5-2.0,respectively),showing that the aggregation of cultivated land in middle and high terrain gradient decreased,the cultivated land was fragmented,and the ecological environment was becoming well.

Webber B L, Le Maitre D C, Kriticos D J, 2012. Comment on “Climatic niche shifts are rare among terrestrial plant invaders”.Science, 338(6104): 193-193.

Whittaker R H, Levin S A, Root R B, 1973. Niche, habitat, and ecotope.American Naturalist, 107(995): 321-338.


Woods M, 2007. Engaging the global countryside: Globalization, hybridity and the reconstitution of rural place.Progress in Human Geography, 31(4): 485-507.


Woods M, 2013. Regions engaging globalization: A typology of regional responses in rural Europe.Journal of Rural and Community Development, 8(3): 113-126.This chapter develops an analysis of the differential engagement of rural regions with globalization, drawing on research conducted for a project funded by the European Commission’s Framework Programme 7, ‘Developing Europe’s Rural Regions in the Era of Globalization’ (DERREG). DERREG involves a consortium of nine partners, and the evidence presented here has been collected by research teams from all partners, each responsible for a separate region (see the end of the chapter for full acknowledgments). The research was conducted across 10 regions.

Wu F, 2002. Calibration of stochastic cellular automata: The application to rural-urban land conversions.International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 16(8): 795-818.Despite the recognition of cellular automata (CA) as a flexible and powerful tool for urban growth simulation, the calibration of CA had been largely heuristic until recent efforts to incorporate multi-criteria evaluation and artificial neural network into rule definition. This study developed a stochastic CA model, which derives its initial probability of simulation from observed sequential land use data. Furthermore, this initial probability is updated dynamically through local rules based on the strength of neighbourhood development. Consequentially the integration of global (static) and local (dynamic) factors produces more realistic simulation results. The procedure of calibrated CA can be applied in other contexts with minimum modification. In this study we applied the procedure to simulate rural-urban land conversions in the city of Guangzhou, China. Moreover, the study suggests the need to examine the result of CA through spatial, tabular and structural validation.


Xiao L S, Yu Z W, Ye Het al., 2015. The research of coupling rural development and economy cluster in Fujian province.Acta Geographica Sinica, 70(4): 615-624. (in Chinese)China's urbanization has significantly influenced rural areas. This research, taking Fujian province as a study case, focused on rural development and its trend in coastal regions.A rurality index was introduced to measure the level of rural development. Four dimensions of rurality were considered in the index including population size, population density, extent of urban built- up area and remoteness. The results showed that rurality has a significant spatialtemporal variation. Rurality declined from 2000 to 2010. In the spatial scale, rurality increased from southeast to northwest in 2000 and 2010. The spatial pattern was roughly consistent with distribution of landforms in Fujian province. The paper divided economic development into agricultural and non- agricultural types. Economic comparative advantage was evaluated by location quotients, which showed where economic sectors were more strongly represented in particular localities than they were in the province as a whole. The location quotients and their change were used to identify rural economic development. The results showed considerable spatial clusters. We characterized four economic clusters of rural Fujian including nonagricultural mature region, non- agricultural emerging region, agricultural cluster region and traditional agricultural region. The non-agricultural economy was clustered in southeast Fujian where the rurality was the weakest and the economy was well developed. This region was taken as non- agricultural mature region. A non- agricultural economy was emerging in west Fujian, which was non- agricultural emerging region. The two economic clusters, nonagricultural mature and emerging regions, accounted for most of Fujian. Agriculture was clustered in the north of the province, and the traditional agricultural economic region was the smallest. The paper examined the coupling relationship between rurality and location quotients to illustrate characteristics of rural economic clusters. There was a significant positive correlation between rurality and location quotients. The paper finally discussed the emergence and development of a new rural type, the town village. A similar phenomenon of town villages has been observed in other coastal provinces with a high urbanization rate in China. The paper can lay scientific foundation for advancing the combination of the national strategies of new urbanization and new rural construction.


Yang R, Xu Q, Long H, 2016. Spatial distribution characteristics and optimized reconstruction analysis of China’s rural settlements during the process of rapid urbanization.Journal of Rural Studies, 47: 413-424.The population density of rural areas is generally lower than before due to rapid industrialization. Spatial optimized reconstruction of rural settlements is the key to rural sustainable development. Analyzing the distribution characteristics of rural settlements and their impact has profound implications for rural reconstruction. Several types of spatial distribution of rural settlements, such as clustered, random, and uniform discrete distribution, were found in China with significant regional differences. Rural settlements were denser in the southeastern regions compared to the northwestern regions. In regions such as plains, the spatial distribution of rural settlements was denser and the spatial distribution modes were mainly random and disperse. In regions such as cold alpine areas and desert fringes, the rural settlements density was low and mainly clustered. In the transition zone between hills and mountains, the density of rural settlements was high and the spatial distribution mode was mainly random. Rural settlements distribution was influenced by traditions and the economy, with economic development becoming increasingly influential. Additional factors that affected rural settlements distribution included average distance to main roadway, agricultural machinery, per capita grain production, per capita arable land, population density, elevation, precipitation, etc. Multiple distribution patterns should be used to reconstruct rural spaces in different geographical areas. Typical patterns included radially balanced, central land distribution mode; radially imbalanced distribution mode; multicore central land distribution mode, and corridor balanced and imbalanced distribution modes.


Yao G, Xie H, 2016. Rural spatial restructuring in ecologically fragile mountainous areas of southern China: A case study of Changgang Town, Jiangxi Province.Journal of Rural Studies, 47: 435-448.Against the dynamic background of Chinese rural transformation development, this study takes the countryside as a regional system, and closely examines rural spatial restructuring in an ecologically fragile mountainous area of southern China at a village-township level. It puts forward a set of methods for rural spatial restructuring based on landscape security pattern construction as well as a model of rural residential land expansion using an ant colony optimization algorithm and scenario simulation. These methods are applied to the case area of Changgang Town, Jiangxi Province. The case study results indicate that the land use security pattern of the study area under the ideal security scenario is the best scenario of three examined, with the least extent of residential land and the minimum loss of key ecological land. Moreover, this scenario can fully satisfy the land demands of ecological security, agricultural production and regional socioeconomic development. These results indicate that the method we proposed can provide technical support for rural spatial restructuring in the ecologically fragile mountainous areas of southern China. Simulation results and spatial zoning control strategies for the case area can provide decision-making references for local spatial planning and control practices. In contemporary China, it is necessary to recognize and better explore the multiple functions of the countryside. The government scientific planning and appropriate control of self-renewal processes of rural space can make more economical use of land, and can guarantee the provision of public goods such as ecological welfare and food security.


Yu Z W, Xiao L S, Guo Q Het al., 2016. Mountain county rural settlement landscape pattern change and spatial characteristics in rapid mountain urbanization process in Fujian province.Acta Ecologica Sininca, 36(10): 1-11. (in Chinese)Fraction of Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation(FPAR) is an important biophysical factor for monitoring vegetation growth,as well as a critical parameter in the terrestrial ecosystem modeling and a key indicator for studying global climate change.Remote sensing technology has been proved to be an effective tool in estimating FPAR at regional and global scales,because satellite data can provide a spatially and periodic,comprehensive view of vegetation growing status.Many methods have been developed in estimating FPAR with remote sensing,which can be generally grouped into two categories.The first category of approaches are the empirical statistics models based on the relationships between vegetation indices,derived from reflectance at canopy level,and FPAR.These models are easy to use with high efficiency and much more suitable for detecting within-field spatial variability,yet they may lead to inaccurate results when applied over another place or broad scale with different land cover types.Another category of approaches for FPAR retrieval are to invert canopy reflectance models based on the BRDF(Bi-Directional Reflectance Distribution Functions) models such as the radiative transfer model and geometrical optics model,which describe the transfer and interaction of radiation inside the canopy based on physical mechanism between FPAR and vegetation canopy reflectance.These models have strong applicability and are taken as the algorithm bases among most widely used FPAR products.However,the inversion process is ill-posed due to the complexity of these physical models;the parameters and prior knowledge required by these models are hard to acquire over large areas.At the same time,other methods such as the method based on the concept of effective FPAR,which is FPAR absorbed by chlorophyll,and the method based on the airbome lidar data which is useful to characterize spatial variability of canopy structure,bring significant improvement to the two categories of methods.Due to the complexity of FPAR itself and its influencing factors,as well as the quality of remote sensing data,plenty of uncertainties existed in satellite based FPAR estimation.For statistical model,most vegetation indices are easily affected by soil background,saturation problem,atmospheric condition,and so on.These factors bring much uncertainty in the relationship between FPAR and vegetation indices.For physical models,problems including top-of-atmosphere radiance uncertainties and errors in land cover mapping are hard or even impossible to avoid.In order to deal with these uncertainties and meet the requirements of further research for terrestrial ecological process,future research focuses on FRAR retrieval based on satellite will be: further research on theoretical mechanism of FPAR estimation,seeking to minimize noise effects on vegetation indices for more accurate estimation of FPAR,improvement of the inversion methods for physically-bases models,acquisition and accumulation of prior knowledge in FPAR estimation based on systematic observation network,construction of long-term FPAR dataset based on multi-source remote sensing data,and algorithm for deriving FPAR with both high spatial and high temporal resolutions.


Zhang G M, Xie S C, 1997. Developement of niche concept and its perspectives: A review.Chinese Journal of Ecology, 16(6): 46-51. (in Chinese)Niche theory is important both in theoretical and applied ecology,but a generally-accepted definition has not been established yet. During the past century, three ecologists have made great contribution to development of the niche concept. Grinnell's (1917,1924, 1928) “spatial niche”, Elton's (1927) “functional niche” and Hutchinson's(1957)“n-dimentional hypervolume niche” have been the major categories of the definition of niche. The present paper reviewed the development of niche concept and analysed the problems that have confused and bothered ecologists for almost 100 years.Finally, a new definition of the niche concept was proposed. Niche can be described as the functional role that a particular species plays in all or a special stage of a given species' invasion, colonization, propagation, development, decline, and extinction process'. Niche theory can be applied to the conservation of endangered,threatened and declining species in the 21st century.

Zhang R, Jiang G, Wang Met al., 2015. Layout classification of rural settlement based on combination of multi-dimensional characteristics.Transactions of the Chinese Society of Agricultural Engineering, 31(4): 286-292. (in Chinese)Under rapid urbanization, analyzing the spatial characteristics and pattern types are fundamental tasks of revealing the mechanism of formation, growth and transition of rural settlements, which are essential to make reasonable decisions for rural settlements consolidation activities. The existing researches mainly considered rural settlements size or configuration characteristics at national or provincial scale, which inevitably hided various problems in small regions and failed to provide explicit characteristics of current size, shape and location required with readjustment of rural settlements. Thus this paper firstly defined rural settlements pattern as the composition of various residential land parcels with number, size, shape, location and organization relationship characteristics. Based on the definition of spatial characteristics of rural settlements pattern and the main compositions, the indicators system and characteristic index model with geometric mean method for evaluating the spatial characteristics of rural settlements pattern were built from size, configuration and location three dimensions. Then a "3-3-2"combination matrix was designed to calculate types of rural settlements spatial pattern by dividing size characteristic index into 3 grades(i.e., small size, medium size and large size), configuration characteristic index into 3 grades(i.e., irregular, moderate irregular, regular), and location characteristic index into 2 grades as advantageous condition and disadvantageous condition. Thus in theoretical rural settlements pattern was concluded 18 types(i.e., 3 3 2=18) of characteristics discussed above. Finally, the paper took Pinggu district in Beijing as the study area, analyzed the spatial characteristics and types of rural settlements pattern, and recommended optimal directions for rural settlements development in the future.Results showed that rural settlements pattern had multi-dimensional characteristics, and the quantitatively analysis from spatial size, configuration and location reflected the current state of distributation. The combination matrix method effectively overcame the limitations that comprehensive evaluation method hided the variation of pattern's dimensional characteristics. The study showed that rural settlements in Pinggu existed great regional variations, which in size were larger in plain region, came next in semi-mountainous region, and were smaller in mountainous region. Additionally, some rural settlements in configuration confronted irregular and scattered problems, though in location most rural settlements presented the tendency of nearing regions with low altitude, roads, city and towns. Pinggu's rural settlements patterns were divided into 10 types, and mainly included "medium size-moderate regular configuration-advantageous location" and "medium size-regular configurationadvantageous location". The study proved that rural settlements patterns were both influenced by geographical factors and socio-economic factors, but they acted on different characteristics of the pattern. The geomorphic condition basically controlled the size characteristic of rural settlements, while the infrastructures like roads and the adjacent central towns(city) further influenced on their spatial configuration and location. Rural settlements consolidation was a complex program that needed to optimize the hierarchy system from macro perspective, and that also needed to diagnose detail problems about size, configuration and location characteristics at small scale. The study indicated that types of rural settlements pattern indicated by the combination matrix method efficiently reflected multi-dimensional information, which immediately provided guiding directions for rural settlements consolidation and spatial optimization practices.


Zhang X Y, Zhai G F, 2013. Analysis of growth feature of spatial form for mountainous cities.Modern Urban Research, 2: 45-50, 56. (in Chinese)Compared with plain cities,the space growth of mountainous cities is much special,usually alternated with gradual form and skipped form due to their complicated terrain condition.Focusing on the urban boundary,this paper analyzed the mechanism of space growth of mountainous cities,and built a model to show how it works.It's found that the growing process of such cities is characterized with leapfrog and circulation,and the whole process can be divided three stages of circulation with two remarkable leapfrogs.Thus,the space growth of mountainous cities can be effectively guided by reasonable planning,which can balance forces on the urban boundary and finally leads to a healthy growth.

Zhao J, Xu M, Lu Set al., 2013a. Human settlement evaluation in mountain areas based on remote sensing, GIS and ecological niche modeling.Journal of Mountain Science, 10(3): 378-387.The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is the world's highest and largest plateau.Due to increasing demands for environment exploration and tourism,a large transitional area is required for altitude adaptation.Hehuang valley,which locates in the transition zone between the Loess Plateau and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau,has convenient transportation and relatively low elevation.Our question is whether the geographic conditions here are appropriate for adapted stay before going into the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.Therefore,in this study,we examined the potential use of ecological niche modeling(ENM) for mapping current and potential distribution patterns of human settlements.We chose the Maximum Entropy Method(Maxent),an ENM which integrates climate,remote sensing and geographical data,to model distributions and assess land suitability for transition areas.After preprocessing and selection,the correlation between variables and spatial autocorrelation input data were removed and 106 occurrence points and 9 environmental layers were determined as the model inputs.The thresholdindependent model performance was reasonable according to 10 times model running,with the area under the curve(AUC) values being 0.917 0.01,and 0.923 0.002 for test data.Cohen's kappa coefficient of model performance was 0.848.Results showed that 82.22% of the study extent was not suitable for human settlement.Of the remaining areas,highly suitable areas accounted for 1.19%,moderately for 5.3% and marginally for 11.28%.These suitable areas totaled 418.79 km 2,and 86.25% of the sample data was identified in the different gradient of suitable area.The decisive environmental factors were slope and two climate variables:mean diurnal temperature range and temperature seasonality.Our model showed a good performance in mapping and assessing human settlements.This study provides the first predicted potential habitat distribution map for human settlement in Ledu County,which could also help in land use management.


Zhao J, Zheng X, Dong Ret al., 2013b. The planning, construction, and management toward sustainable cities in China needs the Environmental Internet of Things.International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, 20(3): 195-198.China's rapid urbanization and its success in developing the Internet of Things (IoT) will decide its future development direction. The construction of sustainable cities is crucial to China because China has such a large population. The Xiamen Long-term Urban Ecosystem Observation and Research Station (Xiamen LUEORS) was started in 2006, together with the research related to the Environmental Internet of Things (EIoT) for Xiamen LUEORS. This paper explains the purpose, general framework, and main features of EIoT, and outlines the results of performing EIoT experiments in some areas, including a ‘town village’, a peculiar phenomenon of China's urbanization. It also discusses the development trends of IoT and proposes the concept of ZeroSpace Interconnection of Things (ZeroIoT, or ZeroSIT).


Zhou G, He Y, Tang Cet al., 2013. Dynamic mechanism and present situation of rural settlement evolution in China.Journal of Geographical Sciences, 23(3): 513-524.This paper makes a deep analysis of the influencing factors in rural settlements evolution,including natural environment constraints,infrastructure,regional cultural inheritance and integration,urbanization and rural industry transformation,land use reformation and innovation,rural household behavior conversion,macro-control policy factors,and so on.Based on the differences between their effective way and degree to rural settlements evolution,these factors are classified into base factors,new-type factors and mutation factors.The driving of base factors is mainly focused on traditional inheritance of rural settlements,the new-type factors mainly have effect on rural settlements transition,and the mutation factors may bring about sudden change.All these factors constitute"three-wheel"driving mechanism of rural settlements evolution,and shape three typical driver paths,which are slow smooth path under the base factors,new path to rapid development under the new-type factors,sudden change path under the mutation factors. The paper also investigates the overall situation of rural settlements evolution in the aspects of the settlement system,settlements scale,settlements morphology,settlements function, settlements culture,settlements environment,and so on.And the general process of rural settlements evolution is divided into four stages,i.e.,initial stage,transitional stage, development stage and mature stage.


Zhu F, Zhang F, Li Cet al., 2014. Functional transition of the rural settlement: Analysis of land-use differentiation in a transect of Beijing, China.Habitat International, 41: 262-271.Diversity, complexity and change have become the hallmarks of contemporary Chinese rural settlements. However, the literature so far has paid insufficient attention to this phenomenon from the standpoint of functional transition and related land-use change. To fill in this gap, this paper explores the functional transition of rural settlement through analyzing land-use differentiation in a transect of Beijing. Land-use changes are presented along the differentiation of land-use structure and use change of rural housing. The results indicate that there is an obvious differentiation of land-use structure from near-urban countryside to the rural hinterland. Besides that, the use change of rural housing also has regional characteristics. They are different responses to the urban sprawl, respectively from the collective economic organization and single rural resident. The regional differentiation implies a functional transition in some rural settlements, including increases of non-agricultural function and urban servicing function. Quantitative evaluation of the functional intensity and its rules on spatial emporal evolution still need to be approached in the future.