Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 406–418 | Cite as

Effects of altitude on county economic development in China

  • Fu-biao Zhu
  • Yi-ping Fang
  • Xue-ting Yang
  • Xiao-ping Qiu
  • Hu Yu


Mountain regions play an increasingly essential role in global sustainable development, and the related sustainable development issues have attracted increasing attention. There are obvious vertical spatial differentiation phenomena in both natural and socio-economic fields with altitude being a key factor affecting the economic development of mountain regions. However, the exact influence of altitude is still unknown. Based on the county scale, this paper used the gravitational potential energy model to evaluate the effects of altitude on economic development in China. The results indicate that the high-altitude areas were the depression areas of county economic development, and county economic density showed a decreasing trend with the increase of altitude. County economic density respectively decreased by 0.10%, 0.04% and 0.02% with every 1% increase in altitude in 2000, 2005 and 2010. Here we demonstrate that high altitude has negative effect on county economy, although the negative effect presented a downward trend. The results also showed that increasing capital and labor investments could reduce the negative effect of high altitude on county economy. In 2010, with every 1% increase in capital and labor density, county economic density increased by 0.62% and 0.83%, respectively. The effects of altitude were the results of multidimensional factors. The fundamental approach to reduce the negative effects of high altitude is to combine the ecological environment and resources to develop characteristic industries. The construction of infrastructure should be strengthened, which can promote the occurrence of the contra-flow of people, logistics and capital, and promote the balanced development of county economy.


Mountain region County economy Altitude Vertical differentiation Gravitational potential energy Balanced development 


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The research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grants No. 41571523), the National Science and Technology Support Program (Grant No. 2014BAC05B01), and the National Key Basic Research and Development Program of China (973 Program) (Grant No. 2013CBA01808).


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Mountain Hazards and EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesChengduChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  5. 5.Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development ModelingChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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