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Remote Sens. 2016, 8(2), 94;

Quantitative Estimation of the Velocity of Urbanization in China Using Nighttime Luminosity Data

State Key Laboratory of Resources and Environmental Information System, Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
Jiangsu Center for Collaborative Innovation in Geographical Information Resource Development and Application, Nanjing 210023, China
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Demographic Consulting, Inc., Santa Ana, CA 92706, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Yuhong He, Qihao Weng, Ioannis Gitas and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 9 November 2015 / Revised: 7 January 2016 / Accepted: 18 January 2016 / Published: 26 January 2016
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Rapid urbanization with sizeable enhancements of urban population and built-up land in China creates challenging planning and management issues due to the complexity of both the urban development and the socioeconomic drivers of environmental change. Improved understanding of spatio-temporal characteristics of urbanization processes are increasingly important for investigating urban expansion and environmental responses to corresponding socioeconomic and landscape dynamics. In this study, we present an artificial luminosity-derived index of the velocity of urbanization, defined as the ratio of temporal trend and spatial gradient of mean annual stable nighttime brightness, to estimate the pace of urbanization and consequent changes in land cover in China for the period of 2000–2010. Using the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program–derived time series of nighttime light data and corresponding satellite-based land cover maps, our results show that the geometric mean velocity of urban dispersal at the country level was 0.21 km·yr−1 across 88.58 × 103 km2 urbanizing areas, in which ~23% of areas originally made of natural and cultivated lands were converted to artificial surfaces between 2000 and 2010. The speed of urbanization varies among urban agglomerations and cities with different development stages and urban forms. Particularly, the Yangtze River Delta conurbation shows the fastest (0.39 km·yr−1) and most extensive (16.12 × 103 km2) urban growth in China over the 10-year period. Moreover, if the current velocity holds, our estimates suggest that an additional 13.29 × 103 km2 in land area will be converted to human-built features while high density socioeconomic activities across the current urbanizing regions and urbanized areas will greatly increase from 52.44 × 103 km2 in 2010 to 62.73 × 103 km2 in China’s mainland during the next several decades. Our findings may provide potential insights into the pace of urbanization in China, its impacts on land changes, and accompanying alterations in environment and ecosystems in a spatially and temporally explicit manner. View Full-Text
Keywords: urbanization; velocity; nighttime lights; land use change; China urbanization; velocity; nighttime lights; land use change; China

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Ma, T.; Yin, Z.; Li, B.; Zhou, C.; Haynie, S. Quantitative Estimation of the Velocity of Urbanization in China Using Nighttime Luminosity Data. Remote Sens. 2016, 8, 94.

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