Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 76 ›› Issue (1): 15-29.doi: 10.11821/dlxb202101002

• Theoretical Exploration • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Using the Fulcrum Cognitive Model to explore the mechanismof past human-land co-evolution

DONG Guanghui1,2(), QIU Menghan1, LI Ruo1, CHEN Fahu2,3   

  1. 1. MOE Key Laboratory of Western China's Environmental System, College of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
    2. CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    3. Key Laboratory of Alpine Ecology, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2019-12-24 Revised:2020-10-12 Online:2021-01-25 Published:2021-03-25
  • Supported by:
    National Key R&D Program of China(2018YFA0606402);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41825001);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41671077)


The trajectory, pattern, and mechanism of the human-land co-evolution process is a critical issue in the field of human geography. The pattern of human-environment interaction has varied significantly during different phases of human evolution, suggesting a series of changes in the driving force of human-land co-evolution. Although a variety of underlying mechanisms specific to the key periods of human history (e.g., Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and historical ages) have been intensively investigated, there are still significant gaps in the widely accepted model of the fundamental law that governs human-land co-evolution across human history. In this paper we propose the Fulcrum Cognitive Model (FCM), with the objective of disentangling the mechanism of human-land co-evolution. The FCM focuses on the equilibrium between the natural ecosystem and human social system, which can be disturbed by both climatic/environmental change and human activities, and restored by an adjustment of the human social system. Moreover, we propose a "quantitative-change equilibrium pattern" and "qualitative-change equilibrium pattern" on the basis of FCM, to further describe the mechanism of past human-land co-evolution in different contexts. In the former pattern, a new equilibrium between the natural ecosystem and human social system is rebuilt by the corresponding changes in population size, without a shift in the fulcrum position. In contrast, in the latter pattern, societies improve their social resilience to the deterioration of the living environment through social and/or technological changes. In this case, the fulcrum position of the original equilibrium shifts and the pattern of human-environment interaction is transformed. Social resilience is gradually strengthened during the evolutionary process and the dominant influencing factor moves from natural causes towards anthropogenic factors. To test its feasibility, we applied the model to the changing patterns of the human-land relationship in Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Henan provinces in central north China between the Yangshao period (~5000-3000 BCE) and Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE), based on a comprehensive analysis of updated archaeological and paleoclimatic data. The results suggested that the mechanism controlling the human-land relationship during ~4000-2600 BCE and 2600-256 BCE could be explained by the "quantitative-change equilibrium pattern" and "qualitative-change equilibrium pattern", respectively. The mechanism of human-land co-evolution in the past is very complicated and the interaction of these two patterns may vary in terms of its spatiotemporal scale, which will require further study in the future.

Key words: human-environmental interaction, Fulcrum Cognitive Model (FCM), climatic and environmental change, human activity, social resilience