28 de março de 2014

How future urban sprawl maps out

Projections of urban growth indicate areas where biodiversity is at high risk.

Lucas Laursen
18 September 2012

Urbanization shapes the environment, but the way in which it does so depends on where and how cities grow. In an effort to forecast how urbanization over the next couple of decades might affect biodiversity and the carbon cycle around the world, researchers have made detailed predictions about how urban areas are likely to grow.

Forecasts of different regions' likelihood of urban expansion could be used to direct conservation efforts.

Urban growth is proceeding apace, with the biggest changes occurring in developing countries. The United Nations (UN) predicts that cities will absorb all of the world's population growth — of around 2.3 billion people — in the next four decades. Yet population projections do not account for variations in how individual cities occupy their land, nor the impact they have on local ecosystems. So geographer Karen Seto of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and her colleagues looked more closely at how individual cities grow.

Given the team's prediction that the world's urban area will double by 2030, Seto says well-informed decisions made now stand to have a large impact. Seto adds that she hopes conservation groups will begin to consider "urbanization hotspots" and will help to shape the next generation of urban infrastructure to account for biodiversity. "Once roads are in place, sewers are in place, it's really difficult to re-do how a city looks," she says.

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