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The boundaries between urban, rural, and natural areas in Appalachia are increasingly defined by the accelerated demand for ecosystem services from growing urban populations. Increases in “urbanness” not only stress the capacity of affected landscapes to provide ecosystem services, but also magnify the pressure on nearby natural areas to provide those services to more people. However, opportunities exist for cities to improve ecosystem functions through urban and landscape planning efforts.
The Urban Influence measure developed by the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) identifies metropolitan counties by population size, and outlines where natural area and urban boundaries exist. This can help to indicate where increased stresses on ecosystem services may occur.
Another indicator of where this urban-natural boundary occurs throughout Appalachia is an Urbanness Index (Mean Urban Value) created by the U.S. Forest Service's Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center (EFETAC). Scientists at EFETAC are interested in complex effects of urban areas on forest dynamics at landscape scales.
Learn more and access this data:
- The Science Analysis of The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, Roaded Area | http://cohesivefire.nemac.org/node/49
- U.S. Forest Service EFETAC, Effects of "Urbanness" on Land Surface Phenology | http://www.forestthreats.org/research/projects/project-summaries/urban-climate
- USDA Economic Research Service, Urban Influence Codes | http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/urban-influence-codes/documentation.aspx