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The study on ecological sustainable development in Chengdu

Yifan Li a, Jinyan Zhan a, *, Fan Zhang a, Miaolin Zhang b, Dongdong Chen c
School of Environment, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
School of Land Science and Technology, China University of Geosciences (Beijing), Beijing 100083, China
Faculty of Resources and Environmental Science, Hubei University, Wuhan, Hubei, 430062, China

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Ecological footprint is one of the important methods to study ecological sustainable development, but
Received 23 May 2016 ecological footprint focuses on only the static calculation of ecological sustainable development and
Received in revised form cannot dynamically predict its development. In this study, we combine ecological footprint with system
10 February 2017
dynamics software STELLA to construct a predictable model of ecological sustainable development. We
Accepted 2 March 2017
Available online xxx
introduce rate1 and rate2 into the model, which reflects the change in per capita consumption of bio-
logical resources and energy due to the socio-economic development, and by changing the values of
them to simulate a variety of scenarios. The results show that ecological sustainable development of
Ecological footprint
Chengdu is in the state of ecological deficit, which is 1.43 million hm2 in 2013, and different rate1 and
STELLA rate2 will lead to different changes in the ecological deficit. When rate1 ¼ rate2 ¼ 0.1, the degree of
Ecological sustainable development ecological deficit in Chengdu is reduced from 1.43 million hm2 to 1.24 million hm2 in 2013e2018, and
System dynamics after 2018, it begins to increase, which will reach 1.32 million hm2 in 2021. And when
Chengdu rate1 ¼ rate2 ¼ 0.05, the ecological deficit of Chengdu in 2013e2021 will decrease gradually, which from
1.43 million hm2 to 1.31 million hm2. These results reflect the impact of economic development on
ecological sustainable development, and it can provide a reference for the balanced development of
economic and ecological protection, which will help decision makers to do something for ecological
sustainable development planning of Chengdu.
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction better method for analyzing sustainable development (Coote,

2006; Du et al., 2006; Ferng, 2014; Li and Hou, 2011; Moffatt, 2000).
Environment protection and sustainable development are the The ecological footprint is a method that measures natural
main hotspots at present (Deng et al., 2016). The concept of sus- capital demand of human beings by evaluating the area of
tainable development is commonly traced to the ‘Bruntland Report’ ecological productive land which is needed to meet the con-
in 1987 (Harlow et al., 2013; Redclift, 2005), and since then more sumption pattern (Wackernagel et al., 1999). The ecological foot-
and more people put their eyes on research of ecological sustain- print was put forward by Rees (1995), which was then improved by
able development (Verba and Ivanov, 2015). In the process of Wackernagel and Rees (1997). The ecological footprint reveals the
development, the city is facing a lot of risks, many scholars began to relationship between the regional supply and demand of natural
study how to realize ecological sustainable development of the city capital. It can make judgments on regional sustainable develop-
in order to solve these risks (Campbell, 1996; Chiesura, 2004; Deng ment by comparing human demand for natural capital and nature
and Bai, 2014). Many methods have been used to study ecological of renewable ability. The ecological footprint is also vividly likened
sustainable development of a city, e.g., ecological network analysis to a footprint on the earth by a giant foot which is loaded with
(Zhang et al., 2010), carbon footprint (Ramaswami et al., 2012), and human and the things created by human, e.g., city and factory
energy analysis (Olaofe and Folly, 2013; Vollaro et al., 2014), which (Haberl et al., 2001). When the earth cannot bear such a large
provide a great reference for the study of ecological sustainable footprint, it is not sustainable and is likely to collapse (Li et al.,
development. But some experts consider ecological footprint as a 2016). Having a scientific theoretical basis clear conceptual
framework (Bicknell et al., 1998) and a unified streamline index
system (Kitzes et al., 2009; Wang and Gao, 2002), the ecological
* Corresponding author. footprint has been widely accepted by many experts and scholars,
E-mail address: (J. Zhan).
1474-7065/© 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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and now it has become a very popular determination method for ecological buffer zone in the upper reaches of Yangtze River Basin,
quantification of ecological sustainable development (Rees and which has a certain impact on ecological balance of the Yangtze
Wackernagel, 1996). River Basin (Peng et al., 2016).
The traditional ecological footprint model can only calculate Chengdu is a typical mega city with an area of approximately
ecological footprint of past time and cannot predict the future 1.21 104 km2, which has 9 districts, 6 counties, and 4 county-level
ecological sustainable development. Many scholars have therefore cities (Chen et al., 2016). The population of Chengdu was 11.88
turned their attention to the predictable model of ecological foot- million, and its GDP was 910.89 billion Yuan in 2013, which ranked
print (Ferng, 2014; Kitzes and Wackernagel, 2009). For example, third in the sub provincial cities, second only to Guangzhou and
they constructed ecological sustainable development forecasting Shenzhen. There is complex topography, diverse natural ecological
model by combining the ecological footprint with gray prediction environment and rich biological resources and mineral resources in
(Gao and Xu, 2014), virtual ecological footprint (Wei et al., 2013), Chengdu. However, associated rapid increases in resource con-
system dynamics (Jin et al., 2009), Artificial Neural Network (ANN) sumption have caused resources inefficiencies (Zhang et al., 2014).
and CA-Markov (Wang et al., 2014). These methods point out the The conflict between economic development and environmental
direction for dynamic prediction of ecological sustainable devel- protection in Chengdu has become severe (Peng et al., 2016). Thus,
opment, but little attention has been given to the effects of socio- it is of significant theoretical and practical interest to choose
economic development and population change. So our study aims Chengdu as the study area.
to use the system dynamics method to construct ecological sus-
tainable development forecasting model, which includes the socio- 2.2. Data
economic factors.
System Dynamics (SD) is a method based on the system theory, Based on the traditional ecological footprint, this study added
which is an important branch of system science and management the socio-economic development and people's living standards
science (Xia, 2009). Compared with other methods (gray predic- data to make the model more accurate. The data used in this study
tion, virtual ecological footprint, ANN and CA-Markov), it can grasp can be categorized into four parts, i.e., land use data, biological
the complex and nonlinear feedback of system, and make a good resource consumption data, energy consumption data, population
prediction (Rashedi and Hegazy, 2016). Also, it can solve the and economic development data of Chengdu. Except for land use
problem of simultaneity (mutual causation) by updating all vari- data, all of these data can been found in the statistical yearbook of
ables in small time increments with positive and negative feed- Chengdu in 2006e2014. The biological resource consumption data,
backs and time delays structuring the interactions and control. And energy consumption data, population data and economic devel-
the most prominent advantage of it is to deal with the problem of opment data was shown in Table 1.
high order, nonlinear, multiple feedback complex time-varying The land use data were extracted on the basis of the Landsat TM/
systems. STELLA is a system software based on the system dy- ETM images covering Chengdu city in 2005, 2009 and 2013, which
namics theory (Costanza and Voinov, 2001), and it can predict the were downloaded from the website of United States Geological
development of systems very well by setting different parameters Survey (USGS) (Table 2). In this study, the method of human-
in the dynamic prediction (Wang and Zhu, 2007). The application of computer interaction interpretation in ENVI software was used to
STELLA software can be a good solution to the existing problems in interpret these remote sensing images. The land use of Chengdu
the current ecological footprint model, but few scholars have was divided into five categories, i.e., farmland, forest land, grass-
combined them up to now. land, water area and construction land (Fig. 2). Finally, the spatial
Chengdu is an important central city in China, which plays an analysis tool and mathematical statistics tool in ArcGIS were used
important role in the western development strategy and “the Belt to get the land use change of transition probability matrix.
and Road Initiatives” (Taylor, 2014), and it is of great theoretical and In this part, it is worth noting that the original land use transfer
practical significance to carry out the comprehensive evaluation of matrix in this study is based on the land use data of 2005e2009,
ecological sustainable development capacity in Chengdu. With and we combined it with the land use data in 2009 to get the land
Chengdu as the study area, this study combined the ecological use data of 2013 in Chengdu, which has slight difference with the
footprint with the STELLA software to study ecological sustainable real remote sensing data. It can be seen from the following table
development. This study constructed a SD model of ecological that the error in every land use type is less than 2% (Table 3). Since
footprint, which regards socio-economic development and people's the difference of land use transfer matrix prediction is small, the
living standards as impact parameter, to analyze and forecast land use data of Chengdu in 2009 and 2013 can be used to get the
ecological sustainable development of Chengdu. new transfer matrix and predict the land use data during
2013e2017 and 2017e2021.
2. Study area and data
3. Methodology
2.1. Study area
3.1. Calculation model of ecological footprint
Chengdu is located between 102 540 E-104 530 E and 30 050 N-
31260 N, in the hinterland of the Chengdu Plain in the western part Ecological footprint can be divided into two parts, the supply of
of Sichuan Basin (Fig. 1). Chengdu is one of the most historically ecological footprint and the demand of ecological footprint. The
important cities in China. It is the capital city of Sichuan province, supply of ecological footprint also can be seen as ecological carrying
serving as a provincial political, industrial and cultural center and a capacity, which usually refers to the maximum population that can
major economic center for southwest China (Qin, 2015). It has a be carried for an organism, given a certain quantity of food, habitat,
sub-tropical climate, with the annual average temperatures of water and other life infrastructure present (Rees, 1996; Xu et al.,
15e18  C, annual accumulated temperature above 10  C of 2010). And in this paper, it means the maximum area of produc-
4500e5700  C, annual precipitation of about 1000 mm, and a non- tive land that Chengdu can provide. The demand of ecological
frost period of 240-300 d. The annual sunshine hour is only footprint in this paper means the productive land area needed by
1000e1600 h in Chengdu, which is one of the lowest value in China the whole population in Chengdu under the certain living standard.
(Zheng et al., 2010). Additionally, this region is an important The supply of ecological footprint was calculated as follows.

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Fig. 1. Location of Chengdu.

Table 1
The socio-economic and living standards data of Chengdu in 2013.a

Index Value Index Value

Per capita consumption of biological resources data Energy consumption data

Grain (kg) 73.70 Raw coal (t) 5 616 379.34
Vegetable oil (kg) 9.16 Washed coal (t) 108 231.05
Pork (kg) 30.46 Other washed coal (t) 91 716.53
Poultry (kg) 9.47 Coal products (t) 26 201.35
Milk (kg) 19.20 Coke (t) 803 173.50
Vegetable (kg) 97.43 Natural gas (million m3) 2610.17
Fruit (kg) 20.25 Gasoline (t) 33 481.92
Egg (kg) 6.29 Kerosene (t) 17 618.52
Red meat (kg) 2.53 Diesel (t) 61 564.85
Aquatic products (kg) 4.20 Fuel oil (t) 417.15
Tea (kg) 0.39 Liquefied petroleum gas (t) 401.02
Economic development data Other petroleum products (t) 89 949.32
GDP (billion Yuan) 910.89 Heat (million KJ) 2 760 147.50
Primary industry (billion Yuan) 35.32 Electricity (million KWh) 16 841.91
Secondary industry (billion Yuan) 418.15 Population data
Tertiary Industry (billion Yuan) 457.42 Total population 11 879 900.00
Rural population 4 592 800.00
Urban population 7 287 100.00
Note: All of these data are from the statistical yearbook of Chengdu in 2014.

Table 2
Details of Landsat TM/ETM data in this study.

Year Filename of Landsat TM/ETM images

2005 LT51290392005104BJC00 LT51300382005189BJC00 LT51300392005253BJC00

2009 LE71290392009123SGS00 LE71300382009226EDC00 LE71300392009242SGS00
2013 LE71290392013022EDC00 LE71300382013221PFS00 LE71300392013141EDC00

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Fig. 2. Land use of Chengdu in 2005, 2009 and 2013.

Table 3
Area of prediction and interpretation in 2013.

Land use type Area of prediction (hm2) Area of interpretation (hm2) Error size (%)

Farmland 643 142.68 638 567.68 0.72

Forest land 281 003.98 284 809.83 1.34
Grass land 64 720.44 65 893.74 1.78
Water area 19 391.14 19 391.46 0.00
Construction land 203 874.16 203 469.68 0.20

area and construction land; ai is the area of ecologically productive

with land type i; ri is the corresponding equilibrium factor for all
EC ¼ ðai  ri  yi Þ (1) kinds of land; yi is the corresponding yield factor for all kinds of
i¼1 land. At the same time, 12% of the biodiversity conservation area
should be deducted when calculating the ecological footprint
where EC is the supply of ecological footprint; i is the type of supply.
productive land including farmland, forest land, grassland, water The calculation formula of the demand of ecological footprint is:

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rate of population is smaller than 0.8%, the natural growth rate of

X X cj
EF ¼ N  ef ¼ N aaj ¼ N (2) population holds 0.8%, and when the urbanization rate is smaller
pj than 65%, the natural growth rate of population keeps 0.6%. This
assumption may be controversial, but in order to ensure that the
where EF is the demand of ecological footprint, N is the number of population growth rate is not unlimited increase, we have to do it.
the population; ef is the demand of per capita ecological footprint; The second part is ecological footprint supply model, which is
aaj is the conversion area of bio production which from per capita shown as follows (Fig. 5). And it is based on the land use data in
trade; cj is per capita consumption of all goods; pj is average pro- 2009e2013. In this part, we use remote sensing to get the land use
duction capacity of per capita consumption of good; j is types of data, and use GIS to get the transfer matrix of it. The data in transfer
consumer goods and inputs. matrix of land use is converted to transfer percentage, and the land
If EF is bigger than EC, it will show the ecological surplus, and if change rate was put into the model in order to get the STELLA
EF is less than EC, the ecological deficit will appear. The regional model of land use change in Chengdu (Zhan et al., 2010).
ecological surplus or ecological deficit reflects the utilization of In this part, Tij means the percentage of land use of i line and j
regional population on natural resources. column in the transfer matrix; ma, mb, mc, md, and me is the
corresponding coefficients of each land use type (GD, LD, CD, SY,
and JSYD), which is obtained by multiplying the corresponding
3.2. Model construction equilibrium factor and the corresponding yield factor; GD, LD, CD,
SY, and JSYD are farmland, forest land, grassland, water area, and
The model construction of this study is mainly based on the construction land, respectively. And in the final accounting of the
software of STELLA, which is made up of four modeling basic supply of ecological footprint, we deduct 12% of the biodiversity
building blocks. The first is Stock, which is the most basic building conservation area.
blocks for modeling, and it is used to indicate any amount that can When setting the model of biological resource consumption and
be accumulated. The second is Flow, which represents the activity, energy consumption, we considered the factors of economic
and it can change the amount of stock in the system. The third is development, and we draw two rate of change (rate1 and rate2)
Converter, which contains the equations that produce the output into the model, which reflect the change of per capita consumption
values for each time period, and it also receives information and of resources brought by the social and economic development and
transfers it to other variables in the model frequently. Of course, the improvement of people's living standards.
Converters are also used to store constants. And the fourth is In this part, we assume that, with the increase of time, economic
Connector, which looks like a line, and it is used to transmit in- development and people's living standards is rising, and the lifting
formation and adjust the flow of input. All of the building blocks are speed is consistent every year. Also, the upgrade for each com-
shown as follows (Fig. 3). modity consumption change of speed is the same. That is the in-
In this study, we considered the population, land, resources, crease rate of A commodity consumption and reduction rate of B
economy and other factors comprehensively to build ecological commodity consumption is consistent from the change of eco-
sustainable development model of Chengdu, which includes three nomic and living standards.
parts. On those basis, according to the positive and negative correla-
The first part is the population model, which is shown as follows tion in consumption biological and energy with the economic
(Fig. 4). It is based on the population trends over the years in growth rate in the statistical yearbook of Chengdu in 2006e2014,
Chengdu, and considering the migration and transformation of we qualitatively assume that with the economic development and
urban and rural population, and adding the urbanization rate as the improved of living standards, the consumption of grain, vegetable
stable factor of model, which would give us a population prediction oil, pork, sugar, meat and wood is decreased, the vegetables, eggs,
of Chengdu. beef and mutton, fresh fruit, milk and all the energy consumption is
In this part, the total population of Chengdu in 2013 is 1.19 increased on the whole. Based on the above assumptions, the
million, and the urbanization rate is 61.34%. According to the sta- prediction model of biological resources and energy consumption
tistical yearbook of Chengdu in 2006e2014, the population natural in Chengdu is constructed, and we can see it in Fig. 6. Furthermore,
growth rate is Y ¼ 0.01248e0.00056*TIME, and the rate of urban YM, XJM, QTXM, MZP, JT, TRQ, QY, MY, CY, RLY, YHSYQ, QTSYZP, RL,
population transfer from rural population is and DL are raw coal, washed coal, other washed coal, coal products,
Y ¼ 0.0042*TIMEþ0.0016. In order to ensure the sustainable coke, natural gas, gasoline, kerosene, diesel, fuel oil, liquefied pe-
development of population, we assume that if the natural growth troleum gas, other petroleum products, heat, and electricity,
respectively. And Di means the demand for each biological resource
or energy, Gi means the average production capacity of per capita
consumption of good.

4. Results

In the model, we assumed that rate1 ¼ rate2 ¼ 0.1 and

rate1 ¼ rate2 ¼ 0.05, we got ecological sustainable development
prediction results of Chengdu in 2013e2021 as follows (Fig. 7).
There is a big ecological deficit in Chengdu (Fig. 7), no matter
how much the rate1 and rate2 are. When the rate1 ¼ rate2 ¼ 0.1,
the ecological deficit of Chengdu in 2013e2018 is decreasing
gradually, which is from 1.43 million hm2 to 1.24 million hm2. And
when the time after 2018, the ecological deficit of it will begin to
increase. In 2021, the ecological deficit come to 1.32 million hm2.
That is, in accordance with the status of land use and the per capita
Fig. 3. The symbols of four basic blocks in STELLA. living standards to enhance the level of 10% per year in Chengdu,

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Fig. 4. STELLA model of population.

Fig. 5. STELLA model of ecological footprint supply.

the ecological deficit of Chengdu will begin to gradually increase Lu (2007), and on the basis of the level of economic development in
from 2018. Also, when the rate1 ¼ rate2 ¼ 0.05, the ecological Chengdu over the years and China's economic development status
deficit of Chengdu in 2013e2021 is decreasing gradually, which is of the new normal (Yu and Zhang, 2015), we assumed that eco-
from 1.43 million hm2 to 1.31 million hm2. Therefore, if the per nomic growth of Chengdu is 7.00% per year. That is, the energy
capita living standards to enhance the level of 5% per year in consumption of Chengdu is 10.21% per year. It is very close to what
Chengdu, the ecological deficit of it will continues to decline. we have previously assumed that rate1 ¼ rate2 ¼ 0.1, so we can take
According to this trend analysis, Chengdu ecological deficit will this situation as the prediction model of ecological sustainable
reach the minimum in 2022 with 1.31 million hm2, followed by a development in Chengdu.
gradual rise (Fig. 8). In this model, we introduce the rate1 and rate2 innovatively,
According to results that every one percentage point increase in which reflect the change of per capita consumption of biological
GDP, energy consumption increased conclusions 1.46% from Liu and resources and energy brought by the social and economic

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Fig. 6. STELLA model of demand for biological resource and energy.

Fig. 7. The ecological deficit of Chengdu in 2013e2021.

Fig. 9. The ecological deficit of Chengdu in 2013e2021 when rate2 is different.

Fig. 8. The ecological deficit of Chengdu in 2013e2029 when rate1 ¼ rate2 ¼ 0.05.

Fig. 10. The ecological deficit of Chengdu in 2013e2021 when rate1 is different.
development and the improvement of people's living standards.
And we set the rate1 ¼ 0.1 or rate2 ¼ 0.1, and analysis the sensitivity
of the rate2 or rate1, respectively (Fig. 9, Fig. 10). million hm2 in 2020, and then increased to 1.17 million hm2 in 2021.
Different rate2 lead to different ecological deficit of Chengdu in When rate2 ¼ 0.1, the ecological deficit of Chengdu in 2013e2021 is
2013e2021 (Fig. 9). When rate2 ¼ 0, rate2 ¼ 0.025 and rate2 ¼ 0.5, also decrease and then increase, which reduced from 1.43 million
the ecological deficit of Chengdu in 2013e2021 are both reduced, hm2 in 2013 to 1.24 million hm2 in 2018, and then increased to 1.32
which is from 1.43 million hm2 to 0.86 million hm2, to 0.95 million million hm2 in 2021. And from the trend point of view, the smaller
hm2 and to 1.05 million hm2, respectively. When rate2 ¼ 0.075, the the rate2, the longer the duration of the ecological deficit reduction.
ecological deficit of Chengdu in 2013e2021 is decrease and then For example, when rate2 ¼ 0.1, the ecological deficit has been
increase, which reduced from 1.43 million hm2 in 2013 to 1.16 reduced in 2013e2018, and when rate2 ¼ 0.075, the ecological

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deficit has been reduced in 2013e2020. It means that with the which is more objective and scientific. It can well reflect the sus-
decrease of energy consumption growth rate, the ecological deficit tainable development of Chengdu in the future.
showed a downward trend. And the faster the reduction of energy In the construction of the model and the simulation of the scene,
consumption growth rate is, the more obvious the decline in we know that to achieve ecological sustainable development of
ecological deficit are. Chengdu, we can take two measures. On the one hand, we can
Different rate1 lead to different ecological deficit of Chengdu in achieve ecological sustainable development of ecological environ-
2013e2021 (Fig. 10). When rate1 ¼ 0, rate1 ¼ 0.025 and rate1 ¼ 0.5, ment by reducing the speed of economic development. On the
the ecological deficit of Chengdu in 2013e2021 are both increasing, other hand, we can reduce the amount of energy consumed which
which is from 1.43 million hm2 to 2.06 million hm2, to 1.79 million is increased by economic development, or guide the dietary
hm2 and to 1.58 million hm2, respectively. When rate1 ¼ 0.075 and structure of residents by any other means to reduce consumption of
rate1 ¼ 0.1, the ecological deficit of Chengdu in 2013e2021 are biological resources. Obviously, the first method seems to have a lot
decrease and then increase, which reduced from 1.43 million hm2 of limitations and unrealistic. So we can improve energy efficiency
in 2013 to 1.34 million hm2 and 1.24 million hm2 in 2018, and then to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP. And also, we can
increased to 1.43 million hm2 and 1.32 million hm2 in 2021, take measures to change the dietary structure of residents by
respectively. It means that with the increase of rate1, which reflects guiding price or other ways, which would reduce the per capita
the changes in dietary composition of residents caused by eco- consumption of biological resources.
nomic growth and the improvement of living standards, the growth Of course, this article has some shortcomings. Firstly, due to the
rate of ecological deficit showed a downward trend after 2013, even lack of data, the influence of industrialization is not taken into ac-
when the rate1 increased to a certain level, the ecological deficit count in the selection of the factors affecting the sustainable
began to show a downward trend. development of Chengdu, which may have a certain impact on
Additionally, Chengdu is an important city in China, and it plays ecological sustainable development of Chengdu. Secondly, the hy-
an important role in China's western development strategy and pothesis of STELLA model for biological resources and energy de-
“the Belt and Road Initiatives”. In the process of economic devel- mand are still to be verified. Finally, and also most importantly,
opment, Chengdu is facing more serious ecological problems, and there are no exact values of rate1 and rate2, which were introduced
how to protect ecological sustainable development of Chengdu has into the model. If the exact values of them can be obtained through
become an important research. All of these study show that research, it will be very helpful for the prediction of ecological
Chengdu has a deficit in ecological (Peng et al., 2016; Yin et al., sustainable development model in Chengdu.
2015). The same is true of this study. From the results of it, we
know that there is a big ecological deficit in Chengdu, which means Acknowledgments
that the current ecological situation in Chengdu is not optimistic. In
terms of the current development model in Chengdu, regardless of This research was supported by the research funds from state
how the economic growth rate and living standards change, its key program of National Natural Science Foundation of China
ecological deficit in a short time will be reduced, but still difficult to (Grant No. 71533004).
completely eliminate. It is gratifying that the results reflect the
existence of Chengdu's ecological deficit may decline, which will References
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