Land Use


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How does land-use affect environmental quality?

The allocation of land-use determines the environmental effects.  As land is continuously being converted for different uses it is necessary to keep track and monitor the land-use in a region.  A variety of land-uses are necessary to maintain hydrological cycles, protect habitats, and ensure sufficient production, while enabling human activity to prosper.  

Urban-suburban, rural-agricultural, forest, and open recreational land serve various human needs and consequently have different impacts upon environmental quality.  Urban land is where the majority of the population lives, thus where the majority of buildings, houses, and roads are built.  This development signifies more impervious surfaces and pollutant emissions.  Rural land is characterized by low populations and usually incorporates agricultural communities.  Rural land has similar effects to urban land, but on a smaller scale due to the lower population and density.  Agricultural land has vegetation and low amounts of impervious cover, but it also increases water pollutants as animal waste and fertilizers wash into the streams.  Forested areas maintain natural nutrient cycles, protect biodiversity, and serve as carbon sinks.  Open space signifies an area of less vegetation than a forest, which reduces, but does not eliminate, natural nutrient cycling and biodiversity; it is also an area of very low impervious surface cover, which means that infiltration rates are higher. 

What are the sub-attributes of land-use?

To evaluate the effects of land-use the sub-attributes considered are: percent urban land, percent agricultural land, percent recreational land, and percent forested land.  The values are given in percent so that you know the proportion of the specified land-use in relation to the total amount of land in the region.  Descriptions of the land-use sub-attributes and databases can be found by clicking on the links below.    

 Land Use: Agricultural Land

Land Use: Recreational Land

Percent Urban Land (forthcoming)

Percent Forested Land (forthcoming)




What other indicators relate to land-use?

            Population density is included in the land-use section because it reveals the amount of people per square mile of land.  The density of people affects the amount and variation of land-uses because the citizens are relying on the land for food, shelter, and economic vitality.           




Next Step?

Examine the land-use sub-attributes, beginning with percent agricultural land (to maintain the flow of the pages).   

Land Use: Density


Author: Elisa Mayes