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Article

The Socio-Economic and Environmental Variables Associated with Hotspots of Infrastructure Expansion in South America

1
Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Puerto Rico, P.O. Box 70377, San Juan 00936, Puerto Rico
2
Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico, P.O. Box 23360, San Juan 00931, Puerto Rico
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(1), 116; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12010116
Received: 28 November 2019 / Revised: 16 December 2019 / Accepted: 25 December 2019 / Published: 1 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing and Geospatial Approaches for Landscape Ecology)
The built environment, defined as all human-made infrastructure, is increasing to fulfill the demand for human settlements, productive systems, mining, and industries. Due to the profound direct and indirect impacts that the built environment produces on natural ecosystems, it is considered a major driver of land change and biodiversity loss, and a major component of global environmental change. In South America, a global producer of minerals and agricultural commodities, and a region with many biodiversity hotspots, infrastructure expanded considerably between 2001 and 2011. This expansion occurred mainly in rural areas, towns, and sprawling suburban areas that were not previously developed. Herein, we characterized the areas of major infrastructure expansion between 2001 and 2011 in South America. We used nighttime light data, land use maps, and socio-economic and environmental variables to answer the following questions: (1) Where are the hotspots of infrastructure expansion located? and (2) What combination of socio-economic and environmental variables are associated with infrastructure expansion? Hotspots of infrastructure expansion encompass 70% (337,310 km2) of the total infrastructure expansion occurring between 2001 and 2011 across South America. Urban population and economic growth, mean elevation, and mean road density were the main variables associated with the hotspots, grouping them into eight clusters. Furthermore, within the hotspots, woody vegetation increased around various urban centers, and several areas showed a large increase in agriculture. Investments in large scale infrastructure projects, and the expansion and intensification of productive systems (e.g., agriculture and meat production) play a dominant role in the increase of infrastructure across South America. We expect that under the current trends of globalization and land changes, infrastructure will continue increasing and expanding into no-development areas and remote places. Therefore, to fully understand the direct and indirect impacts of land use change in natural ecosystems studies of infrastructure need to expand to areas beyond cities. This will provide better land management alternatives for the conservation of biodiversity as well as peri-urban areas across South America. View Full-Text
Keywords: built environment; environmental variables; hotspots; infrastructure; socio-economic variables; South America; socio-ecological systems built environment; environmental variables; hotspots; infrastructure; socio-economic variables; South America; socio-ecological systems
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MDPI and ACS Style

Andrade-Núñez, M.J.; Aide, T.M. The Socio-Economic and Environmental Variables Associated with Hotspots of Infrastructure Expansion in South America. Remote Sens. 2020, 12, 116. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12010116

AMA Style

Andrade-Núñez MJ, Aide TM. The Socio-Economic and Environmental Variables Associated with Hotspots of Infrastructure Expansion in South America. Remote Sensing. 2020; 12(1):116. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12010116

Chicago/Turabian Style

Andrade-Núñez, María J., and T. M. Aide 2020. "The Socio-Economic and Environmental Variables Associated with Hotspots of Infrastructure Expansion in South America" Remote Sensing 12, no. 1: 116. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12010116

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