NCSU Scientists Predict Urban Megalopolis from Raleigh to Atlanta by 2060

NCSU Scientists Predict Urban Megalopolis from Raleigh to Atlanta by 2060
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July 31, 2014

Lovers of farms, forests and other open spaces could be disheartened to hear that those lands might come at the expense of unfettered urban growth.

Without changes to land development practices, researchers at NC State University (NCSU) predict that southeast urban areas will double in size by 2060, creating an urban megalopolis from Raleigh to Atlanta.

The study was a joint effort between NCSU and the Department of Interior's Southeast Climate Science Center.

Researchers used NCSU's High Performance Computing Services to simulate growth during the next 50 years and examined how urban and natural environments could change.

Study co-author Adam Terando, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and adjunct assistant professor at NCSU, said that there could be a seamless corridor of urban development running possibly as far as Birmingham, Ala.

"If we continue to develop urban areas in the Southeast the way we have for the past 60 years, we can expect natural areas will become increasingly fragmented," he said.

As a result, wildlife would be unable to move freely, making it more difficult for them to find mates or food, raise young, and respond to environmental changes. Without anywhere else to go, residents might start finding more animals calling their backyards home.

Increased development can also cause urban heat islands, which is when cities warm as a result of more impervious surfaces like streets, parking lots and buildings. As cities warm, species that love hotter temperatures will begin to move in.

"Given that urbanization poses significant challenges to this region, decision makers will need to begin serious, long-term discussions about economic development, ecological impacts and the value of non-urban spaces," said Jennifer Costanza, a research associate at NCSU and a co-author of the study.