Resources Science ›› 2017, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (3): 379-395.doi: 10.18402/resci.2017.03.01

• Orginal Article •     Next Articles

A review of resources and environment carrying capacity research since the 20th Century:from theory to practice

Zhiming FENG1,2(), Yanzhao YANG1,2, Huimin YAN1,2, Tao PAN1,2,3, Peng LI1   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research,Chinese Academy of Sciences,Beijing 100101,China
    2. College of Resources and Environment,University of Chinese Academy of Sciences,Beijing 100049,China
    3. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation,Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research,Chinese Academy of Sciences,Beijing 100101,China
  • Received:2016-11-10 Revised:2017-02-20 Online:2017-03-20 Published:2017-03-20


Carrying Capacity(CC)was first coined in biology and ecology in the 1920s,and later developed rapidly in related sciences such as natural resources science and environment science. The concept of Resources and Environment Carrying Capacity(RECC),from theoretical investigation to practical implementation,has become an effective and operational tool to describe development restrictions and quantify regional sustainable development. RECC research has become a hot topic methodologically and theoretically in ecology,geography and natural resource and environment. It primarily focuses on the ultimate limit of population and economic development on earth. After briefly looking at the origin of the concept and early headway,we summarize RECC research from land resource carrying capacity,water resource carrying capacity,and environmental carrying capacity(environment capacity). The following evaluating methods,including ecological footprint and virtual land (or the biological productive land by ecological footprint),water footprint and virtual water (or the global flow of virtual water),emergy analysis and virtual energy(or energy equilibrium),are considered as important research progresses in the past century. However,there is still lack of a standard set of evaluation theories and methodologies for RECC research in China and globally,leading to much debate over the objectivity and comparability of resultant figures. Concerning this issue,we propose that RECC research in the future should pay more attention to enhancing exploratory studies in basic theories and carrying mechanisms,thresholds determination and synthetical calculation,technological standards/manuals setting,measurable assessment and systematical integration. More effort is needed to promote the standardization,digitalization and systematization of RECC research in China before according with national practical and operational demands.

Key words: resources and environment carrying capacity (RECC), resources carrying capacity, environment carrying capacity, carrying capacity