Urban Jungle: Urbanization and Land Use Change in Amazonia


Iona Hawken

Advisors: Stephen Kellert, Daniel Nepstad, Charles Peters


My research will examine the connections between land-use change and urbanization in the Amazon basin.

Approximately 70% of the Amazon population lives in urban areas, however little research has addressed the impacts of urban centers on land-use and deforestation in the Amazon. Further, many land-use and deforestation studies have ignored the influence and existence of cities in the Amazon, and the role they play in resource use and land use and land cover change.

In my dissertation research, I will explore the influence of urbanization on the relationship between humans and nature in the context of a development frontier. This research will be conducted in the Amazon basin, a region containing the largest intact forest in the world, as well as having the highest biodiversity and human diversity in the world, and a "frontier" region undergoing rapid development.

Ultimately, my research will seek to address the question: how do urban centers impact land use and land cover change in rural areas, and how do rural areas in turn influence urban centers?

For the remote sensing component of my doctoral research, I will use Landsat TM and ETM+ datasets to quantify and compare spatial and temporal urban growth and land-use change in urban areas and associated rural areas in Amazonia. I will evaluate urbanization patterns over time and space, and detect changes in land use in the hinterlands connected to urban centers.

My objectives for this study are to:

  1. Compare spatial and temporal urbanization and associated rural land-use change over time using historical remote sensing images and archival data on land-use histories to detect land-cover change;
  2. Quantify the flows of humans, and forest and agricultural resources between urban and rural areas;
  3. Measure land-use and land cover change in relation to cities using ethnographic and ecological methods;
  4. Evaluate and survey attitudes and perceptions of forested natural areas in relation to the presence of cities;
  5. Develop a Land Cover and Land Use (LCLUC) model that integrates local and community-level social, economic, and biophysical factors with macro-economic drivers.

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2 February 2005