Global river economic belts can become more sustainable by considering economic and ecological processes

Yichu Wang, JInren Ni, Jinbo Wan, Jianhua Xu, Chunmiao Zheng, Alistair Borthwick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

High-quality regional development requires coupling of socioeconomic and natural domains, but it remains unclear how to effectively integrate the regional economy with river basin ecosystems. Here we establish a developmental perspective of 65 river economic belts, formed through history along the main stems of the world’s great rivers, covering initial, developing, and developed stages. We find that river economic belts characterized by basin-based regional integration can substantially upgrade their eco-efficiency through the harmonization of enhanced regional economic growth and efficient utilization of basin resources, once key prerequisites (e.g., gross domestic product per capita, de-industrialization status, and human development index) are met for river economic belts entering the developed stage. Importantly, primary concerns such as resource stress, environmental pollution, and biodiversity loss are also inherently addressed. Under representative scenarios of regional development planning and climate change (2015–2050), the basin-based regional integration strategy would provide river economic belts with new opportunities and pathways towards sustainability in emerging regions worldwide.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
Number of pages39
JournalCommunications Earth & Environment
Issue number1
Early online date5 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Jan 2024


Dive into the research topics of 'Global river economic belts can become more sustainable by considering economic and ecological processes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this