Social-ecological transformations of Inner Mongolia: a sustainability perspective

Guang Hua Xu, Jianguo Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Introduction: Sustainability requires the reconciling of human needs with the healthy natural ecosystem, which should be achieved within the grand course of industrialization and modernization. Systematic transitions on demography, economy, technology, and institutions are required, while different civilizations may take their respective paths. In this study, we analyze the social-ecological transitions of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China during the past century, focusing on major changes in its environmental, demographic, and socioeconomic conditions. Results: A two-level social-ecological system analysis framework was proposed, and four stages of transition were identified: traditional nomadism, primitive industrial civilization, collectivization era, and economic reform/open-door policy era. Our analysis showed that Inner Mongolia has made great achievements in its socioeconomic domains but is faced with numerous challenging environmental problems. Overconsumption of resources and failure to curtail ecological degradation may lead to a trap of unsustainability. Conclusions: However, the slowing-down population growth, improvements of the economic structure, and many new sustainability initiatives and strong support from the central government together give hope for a sustainable future of the region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number23
JournalEcological Processes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Demographic transition
  • Ecological trap
  • Inner Mongolia
  • Modernization
  • Social-ecological system
  • Sustainability transition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Ecological Modeling


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