Thursday, March 4, 2010

United States Land Loss to Sprawl

A new study published in PLoS One attempts to quantify land loss to sprawl during the 1990s.  Here's the paper abstract:

Urban growth reduces open space in and around cities, impacting biodiversity and ecosystem services. Using land-cover and population data, we examined land consumption and open space loss between 1990 and 2000 for all 274 metropolitan areas in the contiguous United States. Nationally, 1.4 million ha of open space was lost, and the amount lost in a given city was correlated with population growth (r(272) = 0.85, P<0.001). In 2000, cities varied in per capita land consumption by an order of magnitude, from 459 m2/person in New York to 5393 m2/person in Grand Forks, ND. The per capita land consumption (m2/person) of most cities decreased on average over the decade from 1,564 to 1,454 m 2/person, but there was substantial regional variation and some cities even increased. Cities with greater conservation funding or more reform-minded zoning tended to decrease in per capita land consumption more than other cities. The majority of developed area in cities is in low-density neighborhoods housing a small proportion of urban residents, with Gini coefficients that quantify this developed land inequality averaging 0.63. Our results suggest conservation funding and reform-minded zoning decrease per capita open space loss.

In case you're curious, "reform-minded zoning" for the authors means zoning "characterized by efforts to restrict development and sometimes to channel it to existing urban areas."

Ben Barros

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