Chinese Geographical Science

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 127–136 | Cite as

Ecological Network Analysis Quantifying the Sustainability of Regional Economies: A Case Study of Guangdong Province in China

  • Jinshe Liang
  • Ke Hu
  • Teqi Dai


To meet the challenge of sustainable development, sustainability must be made. Ecological network analysis (ENA) was introduced in this paper as an approach to quantitatively measure the growth, development, and sustainability of an economic system. The Guangdong economic networks from 1987 to 2010 were analyzed by applying the ENA approach. Firstly, a currency flow network among economic sectors was constructed to represent the Guangdong economic system by adapting the input-output (I-O) table data. Then, the network indicators from the ENA framework involving the total system throughput (TST), average mutual information (AMI), ascendency (A), redundancy (R) and development capacity (C) were calculated. Lastly, the network indicators were analyzed to acquire the overall features of Guangdong’s economic operations during 1987–2010. The results are as follows: the trends of the network indicators show that the size of the Guangdong economic network grows exponentially at a high rate during 1987–2010, whereas its efficiency does not present a clear trend over its whole period. The growth is the main characteristic of the Guangdong economy during 1987–2010, with no clear evidence regarding its development. The quantitative results of the network also confirmed that the growth contributed to a great majority of the Guangdong economy during1987–2010, whereas the development’s contribution was tiny during the same period. The average value of the sustainability indicator (α) of the Guangdong economic network was 0.222 during 1987–2010, which is less than the theoretically optimal value of 0.37 for a sustainable human-influenced system. The results suggest that the Guangdong economic system needs a further autocatalysis to improve its efficiency to support the system maintaining a sustainable evolvement.


network analysis regional economy sustainability evaluation ascendency Guangdong Province of China 


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The authors are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions, the Statistics Bureau of Guangdong Province for their kindly help in the I-O data.


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Northeast Institute of Geography and Agricultural Ecology, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Geographical ScienceBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina

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