GEOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH ›› 2015, Vol. 34 ›› Issue (8): 1447-1460.doi: 10.11821/dlyj201508004

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A multi-level spatial structure analysis algorithm for urban agglomeration study in China

Fangqu NIU1,2(), Weidong LIU1,2, Tao SONG1,2,3(), Zhiding HU1,2,3   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. Collaborative Innovation Center for Geopolitical Environment of Southwest China and Borderland Development, Kunming 650500, China
  • Received:2014-12-13 Revised:2015-04-19 Online:2015-08-25 Published:2015-08-20


Urban agglomeration plays a key role for China in attending the global divisions of labor, international competitions, as well as the integration of regional economy. Various scholars have dedicated to the study of urban agglomeration. However there is no consensus on the definition of urban agglomeration, which leads to the controversy. Relations between each city-pair in an urban agglomeration may form a complex network which brings a great challenge for researchers to use traditional method to synthetically analyze the spatial structure, due to the exponential calculation time increased by a great number of nodes. Based on the summary of different definitions, a novel method is developed to analyze the multi-level spatial structure of an urban agglomeration. We first find the core cities by calculating the urban centrality of each city in an urban agglomeration using several selected indices. To be specific, the spatial scope of the urban agglomeration can be defined as the 2-hour commute range of each core city. Then interaction intensities between each pair of cities are calculated based on the traffic accessibility and cities' scale. We develop an algorithm to analyze the spatial structure based on the so-called Multi-level Spatial Structure Tree (MSS-Tree), which can be used to analyze the urban agglomeration structure in detail. Finally, we carry out the sample study of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei urban agglomeration to testify the model. The experimental results show that due to the centrality of Beijing downtown area, cities or towns around Beijing have much more interactions with Beijing than among themselves. It could be concluded that mature sub-center cities or towns around Beijing are needed to take the responsibility of service provision. In comparison, Tianjin downtown area and Tianjin coastal district have double cores in Tianjin. Hengshui city far away from Beijing downtown area has the potential to become a secondary central city in the near future. The case study also demonstrates that the algorithm based on the MSS-Tree data is an effective method for the spatial analysis of an urban agglomeration, and can play an important role in subsequent decision makings of urban agglomeration development.

Key words: urban agglomeration, spatial structure, accessibility, MSS-Tree