Who sprawls most? Exploring the patterns of urban growth across 26 European countries
In recent years considerable progress has been made in the understanding of urban land-use change and its dynamic interrelationships with economic, social, and environmental systems. From a quantitative perspective, advancements in GIS technologies, the increased availability of high-resolution remote sensing data, and new GIS-based spatial metrics of urban form and urban growth have helped to establish methods for comparative spatial analysis. However, due to the lack of homogeneous data, very few empirical studies have systematically addressed urbanisation and urban growth at a cross-national level. With this background, this paper presents a comparative assessment of urban land-use change across twenty-six European countries. On two scales of analysis, country and 20 km cells, we found a surprising variability in terms of urban growth and its territorial shape. We argue that these differences cannot be explained by varying demographic or economic growth pressures alone. Indicators on the composition, pattern, and density of urban growth illustrate that country-specific drivers of urban land-use change play an important role for the shaping of Europe’s settlement structure. Keywords: land use, urban form, urban sprawl, urban growth, indicators
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