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Evolution of the Concept of Carrying Capacity and the Analysis Framework of Water Resources Carrying Capacity in Northwest of China

CHENG Guo\|dong (State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering, CAREERI, CAS, Gansu Lanzhou 730000, China)  
From the view of history, in this paper, the concept of carrying capacity is investigated to provide an improved understanding about its contribution to solve environmental and resources problems. \ \ The evolution of the concept of carrying capacity can be divided into three stages. The first stage began with an examination of the bedrock of carrying capacity, which was the Malthus’ population theory. In the theory, the mathematical formulation (logistic growth equation), the rigid assumptions of logistic equation and the uncertainty of terms were found not to follow an equivocal calculation and prediction. But the Malthus’ theory provided the bedrock of carrying capacity. The second stage was a development stage, mainly furnished by ecology research. This stage definition induced the idea of interaction between population of animal species and state of the environment. It shifted the attention from equilibrium quality to the environment range. The third stage consummates the concept of bearing capacity. In this stage, the notions of bearing capacity are placed in the background of ecological economics system for human beings. The matter is complicated by some factors, such as substantial individual difference in types and quantities of resources consumption, rapid cultural evolution of the types and quantities of resources supplying each unit consumption, institutions background, and patterns of socially controlled resources distribution. The notions put a premium on value judgments, institutional settings and interaction between ecological and economics system. \ \ In the second part of this paper, the notion of water resources bearing capacity was analyses in detail and redefined. An analysis framework of water carrying capacity in Northwest China is produced. In the new analysis framework, more attentions were paid on the ecological process, the interaction between ecological and economic systems, and management practices.
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