Given the scarcity of land resources in most Chinese cities, the fragmentation of construction land use is a greater constraint than expansion for urban sustainability. Therefore, there is an urgent need to quantify the fragmentation level of construction land use for planning and managing practices. This study focuses on residential land use, which is one of the most important types of construction land use within built-up urban areas. Based on land use maps of the built-up areas, derived from master plans between 1994 and 2015, multi-spatiotemporal patterns of residential land use fragmentation are classified through a case study of Nantong, a rapidly urbanizing and industrializing city. The results show that the fragmentation of residential land use presented a slight descending trend from 1994 to 2002, and a sharp ascending trend from 2003 to 2015. Moreover, residential land use fragmentation in newly established zones witnessed the highest increase in fragmentation. Additionally, the analysis reveals that the fragmentation of residential land use reflects distinct variations across different urbanization stages, and the fragmentation level of residential land use is related to development density in Nantong city. Finally, socio-economic data was used to provide a quantitative insight into exploring the driving forces through multivariate linear regression. The results show that, triggered by land market reform, residential land use fragmentation in Nantong was mainly due to the rapid growth of the tertiary industry, and government policies.
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