Cities to grab lands equaling size of Mongolia In next 20 years, study says

Sep 15, 2011

In the next 20 years, more than 590,000 square miles of land globally — more than twice the size of Texas — will be gobbled up by cities, a trend that shows no signs of stopping and one that could pose threats on several levels, says a Texas A&M University geographer who is part of a national team studying the problem.

Burak Güneralp, a research assistant professor in the Department of Geography at Texas A&M, says urban areas are growing faster than urban populations and by 2030, urbanized land worldwide will grow by 590,000 square miles — more than twice the size of Texas, or about the size of Mongolia. He is part of a team that includes three other researchers from Yale, Stanford and Arizona State and their work is published in the journal PloS ONE.

"This massive urbanization of land is happening worldwide, but India, China and Africa have experienced the highest rates of urban land expansion," Güneralp explains. "Our study covered the 30 years from 1970 to 2000, and we found that urban growth is occurring at the highest rates in developing countries. However, it is the North America that experienced the largest increase in total urban land."

The United Nations predicts that by 2030 there will be an additional 1.47 billion people living in urban areas. Güneralp says, urban population growth is a significant driver of urban land change, especially in developing regions such in India and Africa. However, economic growth is also important, particularly in China. He notes that coastal areas are especially vulnerable to urban expansion.

"Where cities grow the most seem to be near coastal areas, and this is a very noticeable trend," Güneralp says. "This makes a special area of concern because people and infrastructures are at risk to rising sea levels, flooding, hurricanes, tsunamis and other disasters. All over the world, people like to live by the water, so it's a trend that will likely not change."

Güneralp adds that often urbanization occurs near lands that are environmentally sensitive and in some cases, protected by law.

"This will challenge conservation strategies because future urban expansion is expected to be significant in total area extent and also as likely to occur near protected areas as in other regions," he says.

There is a flip side to the urbanization trend, Güneralp points out.

"People who live in cities tend to have better access to health care, water and sanitation facilities, and cities are shown to be more efficient with regards to such things as energy consumption compared to rural areas," he notes. "In cities, people exchange. They exchange ideas, experiences as well as materials. All these spur innovation and create business opportunities. Because of all these interactions, cities are the most likely places to come up with the solutions to the emerging environmental and economic challenges that we face."

Explore further: Poverty rate drops for the first time since 2006

More information: To view the entire paper, go to www.plosone.org/article/info%3… journal.pone.0023777

Provided by Texas A&M University

3.3 /5 (3 votes)

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User comments : 10

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that_guy
1 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
Whereas I agree with most parts of this article, I will point out that "the trend showing no signs of stopping" is a pretty unsupportable conjecture. A land grab the size of mongolia, in terms of city is a large fraction of the world's residents, out of a non-urban proportion of residents who are already in minority. Couple that with a plateauing world population trend (Yes I know there will be several billion more in the next 3 or 4 decades) - "signs of stopping" just doesn't fit the situation. You know it will increase before it slows down, but you full well know that the fuel will only last so long.
Shootist
2 / 5 (4) Sep 15, 2011
Planet: 57,308,738 Sq. Miles
Mongolia: 590,000 Sq. Miles

I ain't skeered. Whatever cannot go on forever will stop.
jonnyboy
3 / 5 (2) Sep 15, 2011
self correcting problem. mothers versus mother nature.........i am betting on ma nature.
Tony_Jack
1.3 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2011
Why do humans use so much land? Right now literally every human being on earth can live in Texas in a house with a backyard with space left over. So what do we currently do with the rest of land? If the size of cities increase then what happen to the land that was previously inhabited?
Nanobanano
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 15, 2011
Why do humans use so much land? Right now literally every human being on earth can live in Texas in a house with a backyard with space left over. So what do we currently do with the rest of land? If the size of cities increase then what happen to the land that was previously inhabited?


Quite a large amount of the land is impossible or diffuclt to use for anything due to terrain.

Then there's farming on any fertile, open land.

Then there's forests, since you have to grow wood for timber, AND you have to leave enough forests to have healthy O2 production, lol...

then there's roads, bridges, rivers, and right-of-ways, etc.

Then there's national parks to protect the environment from capitalist mining companies who destroy the land at will.

Then there's deserts where almost nobody lives because you pretty much can't do anything with the land, except...wind and solar, which with nobody living nearby is no demand...yeah...
Nanobanano
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 15, 2011
Anyway, most of the land that can be used for something useful IS being used. You just might not realize it because you drive by and don't know what's going on there.

I also left out land fills, prisons, oil fields, and military bases.

Most of the unused land is unused for a reason: It's useless, lol...

that's why they do weapons tests in deserts, because there isn't any other use for it mostly, and nobody except a few extremists cares if you melt some sand and kill a few scorpions...

Unfortunately, wind and solar is only useful in SOME deserts, because you have transmit the power somewhere where it's useful.

Ohter than that, it takes quite a lot of farm land and forestation to feed and clothe you for a year.

You're so used to someone else doing all this stuff for you, and then you buying the end product, that you don't think much about where it comes from.

Oh yeah, swamps and marshes for "some" fisheries and wild game, and then beaches too...yeah, it's used up..
Nanobanano
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2011
And damn, wouldn't you know it, you got the coal companies and the other mining companies, and they have to buy out huge pieces of land, often entire mountains or sections of mountain ranges, and practically dig out the entire thing, at least the layers where their coal or ore is in highest concentrations...

Then you got salt flats, salt domes, and deep salt mines, and they have to buy out the land to do that too, and most of the salt is "thrown away" each year in the form of salting a road to help melt ice.

Then you got parking lots, which are often 5 to 10 times as large as the buildings they service for shopping centers, stadiums, universities, hospitals, etc...parking lots probably take up more than half the space for cities that don't have a lot of high rises, and roads take up much of what remains...

Vertical construction and parking garages go a very, very long way to saving land area, lol.
Nanobanano
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2011
Yeah, you might put everyone in Texas with a back yard, but you wouldn't have room for hospitals or businesses, and you wouldn't have room for roads or farms either...
Guy_Underbridge
5 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2011
Right now literally every human being on earth can live in Texas in a house with a backyard with space left over.
Shhhh. Texans already have a hard time accepting foreigners...
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2011
@QC/nano
Then you got parking lots, which are often 5 to 10 times as large as the buildings they service for shopping centers, stadiums, universities, hospitals, etc...parking lots probably take up more than half the space for cities that don't have a lot of high rises, and roads take up much of what remains...
Your sickness is extremely uncomfortable to witness. Notice only noobs uprate you? And they only last for a few posts because as you continue to ramble and spout in post after post after post it becomes painfully obvious that there is something WRONG with you.

Whats it going to be today? Another 60 posts of QC stream-of-consciousness? Your brain doesnt stop does it? Thoughts and images and numbers racing, rushing, the compulsion to post them here irresistable... 'must_calculate_must_opine_must_post_cant_stop_now...'