Population stress : A spatiotemporal analysis of population change and land development at the county level in the contiguous United States, 2001–2011

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-137
Number of pages10
Journal / PublicationLand Use Policy
Online published20 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


The past century has witnessed rapidly increasing population-land conflicts due to exponential population growth and its many consequences. Although the measures of population-land conflicts are many, there lacks a model that appropriately considers both the social and physical contexts of population-land conflicts. In this study we introduce the concept of population stress, which identifies areas with populations growing faster than the lands available for sustainable development. Specifically, population stress areas are identified by comparing population growth and land development as measured by land developability in the contiguous United States from 2001 to 2011. Our approach is based on a combination of spatial multicriteria analysis, zonal statistics, and spatiotemporal modelling. We found that the population growth of a county is associated with the decrease of land developability, along with the spatial influences of surrounding counties. The Midwest and the traditional “Deep South” counties would have less population stress with future land development, whereas the Southeast Coast, Washington State, Northern Texas, and the Southwest would face more stress due to population growth that is faster than the loss of suitable lands for development. The factors contributing to population stress may differ from place to place. Our “population stress” concept is useful and innovative for understanding population stress due to land development and can be applied to other regions as well as global research. It can act as a basis towards developing coherent sustainable land use policies. Coordination among local governments and across different levels of governments in the twenty-first century is a must for effective land use planning. © 2017 Elsevier Ltd.

Research Area(s)

  • Land developability, Population growth, Population stress, Population-land conflicts, Vulnerability