DOINews: New Report Predicts Creation of 'Megalopolis' in Southeast U.S.

Last edited 4/26/2016


Researchers from the Department of the Interior's Southeast Climate Science Center and North Carolina State University have found from a new study that urban areas in the Southeast U.S. may double in size in the next 45 years unless there are significant changes to the current pattern of land development.

“If we continue to develop urban areas in the Southeast the way we have for the past 60 years, we can expect natural areas will become increasingly fragmented,” said Adam Terando, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, adjunct assistant professor at NC State, and lead author of the study. “We could be looking at a seamless corridor of urban development running from Raleigh to Atlanta, and possibly as far as Birmingham, within the next 50 years.”

As the report describes, this large amount of urban growth could cause extra stress to an already stressed relationship between people and wildlife and ecosystems in these urbanized areas.

“Unless we change course, over the next 50 years urbanization will have a more pronounced ecological impact in many non-coastal areas of the Southeast than climate change," said Jennifer Costanza, a research associate at NC State and a co-author of the study. “It's impossible to predict precisely what the specific ecological outcomes would be, but so far, the projections are not good in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem health.”

“Given that urbanization poses significant challenges to this region, decision makers will need to begin serious, long-term discussions about economic development, ecological impacts and the value of non-urban spaces,” she added.

The paper, “The southern megalopolis: using the past to predict the future of urban sprawl in the Southeast U.S.,” is published in PLOS ONE. The paper was co-authored by Adam Terando, Alexa McKerrow and Jaime A. Collazo of the USGS; and Jennifer Costanza, Curtis Belyea and Rob Dunn of NC State. The work was supported by the DOI Southeast Climate Science Center based at NC State.

Read the full USGS News Release >>