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Open AccessArticle

Ecological Footprint Analysis Based on Changing Food Consumption in a Poorly Developed Area of China

1,2,* and 1
Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 11A, Datun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100101, China
School of Resource and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Yuquan Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100109, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2017, 9(8), 1323;
Received: 14 June 2017 / Revised: 17 July 2017 / Accepted: 24 July 2017 / Published: 22 August 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability in an Urbanizing World: The Role of People)
PDF [2731 KB, uploaded 22 August 2017]


The per capita ecological footprint (EF) is a useful tool to compare consumption with nature's ability to support this consumption. Guyuan is an economically impoverished region in China, where EF provides important insights into whether human consumption can be sustained by the local per capita biological capacity (BC), which represents the environment’s ability to support resource use. We estimated the EF of food consumption using local equivalence and yield factors, and compared EF in 1998 and 2013 with BC, which represented the existing biologically productive area (including cultivated land, grassland, forest, and water bodies) that supports this consumption. Data were collected from household surveys, government statistics, and land use maps. We found that food consumption changed, with decreasing consumption of staple foods and increasing consumption of meat, eggs, milk, edible oils, fruit, and vegetables. Decreased staple food consumption decreased the EF for this food group, but the large increase in meat consumption greatly increased EF from meat production (to more than 41 times the 1998 value). Cultivated land contributed greatly to both EF and BC, and staple foods and vegetables were the main EF components for this land. Overall, EF from food consumption decreased from 1998 to 2013, but local BC remained 188,356 ha below EF (i.e., current consumption is not sustainable based on local resources). The Grain for Green program, which focuses on increasing the BC of forest and grassland by replacing degraded cultivated land with these land use types, decreased the BC of cultivated land, leading to wide spatial variation in both EF and BC. These results will inform policy development by revealing the condition of each region’s use of the locally available production resources. View Full-Text
Keywords: food consumption; ecological footprint; biological capacity; carrying capacity; household survey; Guyuan food consumption; ecological footprint; biological capacity; carrying capacity; household survey; Guyuan

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Zhen, L.; Du, B. Ecological Footprint Analysis Based on Changing Food Consumption in a Poorly Developed Area of China. Sustainability 2017, 9, 1323.

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