In response to changes in human and natural environments over the past three decades, transitional countries have experienced dramatic urbanization. In the context of socioeconomic and biophysical changes, our knowledge on these urbanization processes remains limited. Here, we used the Mongolian Plateau (i.e., Inner Mongolia (IM) and Mongolia (MG)) as a testbed and applied the coupled natural and human (CNH) concept to understand the processes and causes of urbanization. We selected six cities on the Mongolian Plateau, classified their urban built-up areas using Geographic Object-Based Image Analysis (GEOBIA) from 1990 through 2015, and examined the driving forces of urbanization (i.e., economy, social goods, and environmental variables) through Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modeling (PLS-SEM). We found that the spatial characteristics of urbanization in IM and MG have both similarities and differences. The cities in IM and MG have experienced rapid urban expansion, with urban areas increasing by 4.36 times and 3.12 times, respectively, since 1990. Cities in IM, however, were less dense and more sprawling whereas cities in MG were linearly aggregated. We also found through PLS-SEM that multiple driving forces affected urbanization in IM and MG during the transitional period. Results (path coef.) demonstrated that economic development (0.559) is a major driver for urbanization in IM, whereas social goods (0.646) and economic development (0.433) strongly influence urbanization in MG. These differences are likely due to the divergent governmental roles in urban development and in infrastructure/social support, as well as the differing economic structures in IM and MG.
Park, H., Fan, P., John, R., & Chen, J. (2017). Urbanization on the Mongolian Plateau after economic reform: Changes and causes. Applied Geography, 86, 118–127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeog.2017.06.026