In recent decades, with the rapid economic development and population expansion, the impacts of human activities on the earth’s ecosystem have been increasing; conflict among natural resources, the environment, and the economy has been increasing; and the risk of ecosystem degradation has been growing. Sustainable development has gradually become a development goal of society. How to balance the relationships among natural resources, society, and economic development and promote both sustainable development and the economy have become hot topics in ecological economics research. Qinghai Province is an important part of the Qinghai Tibet Plateau and has a unique geographical location. Due to its location and important ecological functions, the province plays an irreplaceable role in promoting the sustainable development of China’s economy and society. Because of the wide coverage of Qinghai Province and the large variation in economic and environmental factors among areas, an evaluation of the overall sustainability of Qinghai Province is necessary. In recent years, the province has experienced continuous economic and societal changes. Time-series analysis of ecological footprint (EF) changes can not only reveal the evolution of regional sustainable development and help predict future development but also reveal the responses of the environment to social and economic changes.
To evaluate the state of sustainability and existing problems in the process of coordinated development in Qinghai Province and to reveal the sustainability of ecological, economic, and social development in Qinghai Province, a research team led by Dr. ZHOU Huakun at Northwest Institue of Plateau Biology of Chinese Academy of Sciences Analyzed the EF and carrying capacity (EC) of Qinghai Province from 2007 to 2017. Based on the ecological footprint (EF) model, the dynamic changes in the per capita EF and per capita ecological carrying capacity (EC) in Qinghai Province from 2007 to 2017 were quantitatively analysed. The grey GM(1,1) prediction model was used to predict the per capita EF, per capita EC, and EF of ten thousand yuan of GDP. Additionally, the spatial change characteristics of the sustainable development status of the study area in four time periods were analysed using GIS technology. The results showed the following. (1) In the 11-year study period, Qinghai Province’s EF per capita grew gradually, increasing from 2.3027 hm2 in 2007 to 2.9837 hm2 in 2017. (2) The EC per capita in Qinghai Province remained a slight linear upward trend. (3) The environmental sustainability in Qinghai Province deteriorated over time. (4) According to the spatial characteristics, the overall sustainable development state changed markedly in the eastern region but was stable in the central and western regions. This paper proposes some countermeasures and suggestions to help Qinghai Province work towards sustainable development, such as controlling the population, adjusting the industrial structure, developing a low-carbon circular economy, and implementing ecological engineering.
Recently, the research was published online in Sustainability. PhD student GUO Jing at University of Chinese Academy of Sciences is the first author. Dr. ZHOU Huakun is the corresponding author, who is also a doctoral supervisor at University of Chinese Academy of Sciences. This research was funded by the National Key Research and Development Program; National Social Science Foundation Youth Project of China; The Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research (STEP) program; General Project of Natural Science Foundation of Qinghai Province; Chinese Academy of Sciences Technology Service Network Program (STS plan); and Pan third pole project.