How to best coordinate the relationship between urbanization and eco-environment and promote regional sustainable development is an important concern.
Previous studies mainly focused on empirical observation of interactions between urbanization and the eco-environment, mainly through econometric models which lacked detailed explanations of the coupling mechanisms between various elements.
In order to fully represent the nonlinear interactions between urbanization and eco-environment, a research team led by Prof. FANG Chuanglin from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research (IGSNRR) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences designed and developed the Urbanization and Eco-environment Coupler (UEC) to simulate urbanization and eco-environment coupling. They chose the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei urban agglomeration as a case study research area (Figure 1).
On the basis of describing a theoretical graph of urbanization and eco-environment coupling, the researchers creatively designed and developed the UEC including four urbanization submodels (the economy, society, population and construction land) and five eco-environment submodels (water, arable land, ecology, pollution and energy). They used system dynamic as the core to simulate regional urbanization and eco-environment coupling and to compare different sustainable development scenarios.
They found that prioritizing urbanization would accelerate economic growth and increase pollution emissions whereas prioritizing the eco-environment would negatively affect both total population and arable land; when sufficient policy and technical support was directed to a particular area, urbanization may not further degrade the eco-environment.
Simulation results for various scenarios showed that the key to guaranteeing sustainable development was improving technical and political support rather than further restricting urbanization.
Depending on the results of the analysis, researchers do not advocate excessive restrictions on urban population and economic growth in developing country such as China, as adequate technical support and appropriate policy enforcement can largely offset the negative effects of urbanization. They stress the need to balance urbanization and environmental protection.
The study, published in Science of the Total Environment, was supported by the Major Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China.
Figure 1 Urbanization and Eco-environment Coupler (UEC) (Image by FANG Chuanglin)
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