Gibrat’s law and the change in artificial land use within and between European cities

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Seen from a satellite, observing land use in the daytime or at night, most cities have circular shapes, organised around a city centre. A radial analysis of artificial land use growth is conducted in order to understand what the recent changes in urbanisation are across Europe and how it relates to city size. We focus on the most fundamental differentiation regarding urban land use: has it been artificialised for human uses (residence or roads for instance) or is it natural, or at least undeveloped? Using spatially detailed data from the EU Copernicus Urban Atlas, profiles of artificial land use (ALU) are calculated and compared between two years, 2006 and 2012. Based on the homothety of urban forms found by Lemoy and Caruso (2018), a simple scaling law is used to compare the internal structure of cities after controlling for population size. We firstly show that when using the functional urban area (FUA) definition of cities, a kind of Gibrat’s law for land use appears to hold. However, when we examine cities internally, this is no longer clear as there are differences on average between city size categories. We also look at further city groupings using regions and topography to show that artificial land use growth across European cities is not homogeneous. Our findings have important implications relative to the sustainability of cities as this evidence is pointing towards increasing urban sprawl and stagnant growth in urban centres across cities of all sizes. It also has theoretical implications on the nature of sprawl and its scaling with city size.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on Entropy, Complexity and Spatial Dynamics
Subtitle of host publicationA Rebirth of Theory?
EditorsAura Reggiani, Laurie A. Schintler, Daniel Czamanski, Roberto Patuelli
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781839100598
ISBN (Print)9781839100581
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Dec 2021

Publication series

PublisherEdward Elgar

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