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01.03.2011 | Ausgabe 1/2011

Urban Ecosystems 1/2011

Urbanization in the Southeastern United States: Socioeconomic forces and ecological responses along an urban-rural gradient

Zeitschrift:
Urban Ecosystems > Ausgabe 1/2011
Autoren:
R. Chelsea Nagy, B. Graeme Lockaby

Abstract

Urbanization in the southeastern U.S. has progressed rapidly due to economic development and population growth. This is particularly the case in the Piedmont physiographic region of Georgia where an interdisciplinary group of researchers conducted a series of studies, collectively known as the West Georgia Project, to evaluate the causes and consequences of urbanization associated with a mid-size city (<200,000 pop). Although the results of this project have been presented as individual facets, in this manuscript, we will provide a comprehensive picture of the drivers and effects of urbanization across that landscape. First, socio-economic drivers of land use change in Georgia were identified. The feedback of urbanization influences on cultural responses, namely environmental knowledge, was studied in urban vs. rural watersheds. Additionally, an urban-rural gradient of selected watersheds was used to examine the effects of urban development on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem structure and function. We hypothesized that negative feedbacks would occur as a result of environmental impacts that could alter the rate of development or its spatial distribution. These studies suggested that urbanization has greatly altered many environmental indices. However, environmental awareness seemed to decline as populations became more urbanized and, consequently, there was little indication that the previously mentioned negative feedbacks occurred. With continued conversion of forests to urban land expected through the foreseeable future, greater emphasis on outreach must occur in order to enhance environmental knowledge of rural and urban residents alike and to make urbanizing populations aware of any degradation of environmental quality.

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