, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 350–360 | Cite as

Agricultural vulnerability over the Chinese Loess Plateau in response to climate change: Exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity

  • Xueling Li
  • Joshua Philp
  • Roger Cremades
  • Anna Roberts
  • Liang He
  • Longhui Li
  • Qiang YuEmail author


Understanding how the vulnerability of agricultural production to climate change can differ spatially has practical significance to sustainable management of agricultural systems worldwide. Accordingly, this study developed a conceptual framework to assess the agricultural vulnerability of 243 rural counties on the Chinese Loess Plateau. Indicators representing the climate/agriculture interface were selected to describe exposure and sensitivity, while stocks of certain capitals were used to describe adaptive capacity. A vulnerability index for each county was calculated and the spatial distribution was mapped. Results showed that exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity occur independently, with most contributing indicator values concentrated in a narrow range after normalization. Within the 49 most vulnerable counties, which together encompass 81 % of the vulnerability index range, 42 were characterized by high exposure and sensitivity but low adaptive capacity. The most vulnerable area was found to be located in the central northeast–southwest belt of Loess Plateau. Adaptation measures for both ecological restoration and economic development are needed and potential adaptation options need further investigation.


Climate change Yield variability Vulnerability analysis Adaptation Loess Plateau County level 



This study was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program, No. 2012CB955304). The first author appreciates the financial support from the Chinese Scholarship Council, Ministry of Education, China.

Supplementary material

13280_2015_727_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (277 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 277 kb)


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xueling Li
    • 1
  • Joshua Philp
    • 2
  • Roger Cremades
    • 3
  • Anna Roberts
    • 4
  • Liang He
    • 5
  • Longhui Li
    • 1
  • Qiang Yu
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.The School of Life SciencesUniversity of Technology SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Science and HealthWestern Sydney UniversityPenrithAustralia
  3. 3.Research Unit Sustainability and Global Change, Departments of Geosciences and EconomicsUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  4. 4.Natural Decisions Pty LtdNewsteadAustralia
  5. 5.Agro-meteorological CentreNational Meteorological Center of China Meteorological AdministrationBeijingChina

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