Global trends and local variations in land take per person

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

129 Downloads (Pure)


Globally, urban areas are growing at a faster rate than their population, potentially reducing environmental sustainability due to undesirable land take in (semi)natural and agricultural lands. However, it is unclear to what extent this trend varies locally, which may hamper the formulation and implementation of local-scale policies in the context of the global competition for land. Here, we attribute built-up land change to population dynamics and changes in land take per person, for >75,000 administrative regions worldwide, typically representing municipalities or counties. Results show that changes in land take per person, expressed as the area of built-up land per capita, relate to 38.3%, 49.6%, and 37.5% of the total increase in built-up land during the periods 1975–1990, 1990–2000, and 2000–2015, respectively, but with large local variations. Interestingly, we find that centres of large cities densify in all three periods, while their rural areas show an opposite development, suggesting an urban polarization effect. We also find densification in many regions in the Global South that already have a high population density, leading to potential trade-offs in terms of human wellbeing. Therefore, our work provides novel insights into the debate on sustainable urban development at a global scale.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104308
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Early online date23 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Urban expansion
  • Population dynamics
  • Urban density
  • Land-use intensity
  • Human settlements


Dive into the research topics of 'Global trends and local variations in land take per person'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this