Landscape Ecology

, Volume 29, Issue 10, pp 1709–1723 | Cite as

Vulnerability of a coupled natural and human system in a changing environment: dynamics of Lanzhou’s urban landscape

  • Peilei Fan
  • Yaowen Xie
  • Jiaguo Qi
  • Jiquan Chen
  • Huiqing Huang
Research Article


We used a multidisciplinary approach to assess the vulnerability of a coupled natural and human (CNH) system in Lanzhou, China. Lanzhou’s urban settlement and expansion depended highly on the waterway of the Yellow River and its surrounding geographic setting. Lanzhou’s dramatic fluctuation of population was linked with its position as a bordering city between different geographic regions and the controls of ethnic/cultural groups. During the modern phase (1949 to the present), Lanzhou experienced rapid urban expansion, especially after 1979, propelled by industrialization policies by the national government. However, Lanzhou’s environment degraded seriously with severe air, water, and soil pollution as well as low green coverage and affected urban climate, especially after the 1970s. We argue that geophysical factors, economic regimes, and institutional factors are all crucial in explaining the dynamics of the CNH system in Lanzhou.


Lanzhou Urban sustainability History Urban sprawl Vulnerability 



We acknowledge the funding support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s Land Cover and Land Use Program through a grant to Michigan State University (NNX09AI32G), the “Urbanization in Asia” Project at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the IceMe of NUIST. We thank Yongchun Yang from Lanzhou University for insights on the urban development of Lanzhou. We thank two anonymous reviewers for the constructive and helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NASA or ADB.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peilei Fan
    • 1
  • Yaowen Xie
    • 2
  • Jiaguo Qi
    • 3
  • Jiquan Chen
    • 3
    • 4
  • Huiqing Huang
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Planning, Design, and Construction and Center for Global Change and Earth Observations (CGCEO)Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.School of Earth and Environment ScienceLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  3. 3.Department of Geography and Center for Global Change and Earth Observations (CGCEO)Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  4. 4.International Center for Ecology, Meteorology and Environment (IceMe), School of Applied MeteorologyNanjing University of Information Science and TechnologyNanjingChina

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