Rapid global urban expansion will threaten biodiversity unless action is taken in a limited amount of time available, a study by three U.S. universities found.
Researchers at Yale, Texas A&M and Boston University predict that by 2030 urban areas around the world will expand by more than 463,000 square miles, equivalent to 20,000 American football fields becoming urbanized every day for the first three decades of this century.
That will also require the construction of roads and buildings, water and sanitation facilities and energy and transport systems that will transform land cover and cities globally, the researchers said in a Boston University release Tuesday.
“Given the long life and near irreversibility of infrastructure investments, it will be critical for current urbanization-related policies to consider their lasting impacts,” Yale urban environment Professor Karen Seto said. “We have a huge opportunity to shape how cities develop and their environmental impacts.” Urban expansion will have significant impacts on biodiversity hot spots around the world, researchers said.
Urban expansion will encroach on or destroy habitats for 139 amphibian species, 41 mammalian species and 25 bird species that are either on the Critically Endangered or Endangered Lists of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the study said.
“Urbanization is often considered a local issue, however our analysis shows that the direct impacts of future urban expansion on global biodiversity hot spots and carbon pools are significant,” Seto said.
“The world will experience an unprecedented era of urban expansion and city-building over the next few decades. The associated environmental and social challenges will be enormous, but so are the opportunities.”