Beyond fragmentation at the fringe: A path-dependent, high-resolution analysis of urban land cover in Phoenix, Arizona Academic Article uri icon


  • A common critique of urban sprawl is that it leads to increased land fragmentation, which has negative social and ecological implications. Consistent with theory, empirical research generally finds increased levels of fragmentation near the urban fringe. We apply landscape metrics to 1-m resolution remotely sensed imagery of the City of Phoenix, Arizona from 2010 in order to analyze urban sprawl based on the area, fragmentation, shape complexity, and diversity of land covers at a resolution finer than that of an individual land parcel. While previous work typically defines areas by how far they are from the central city, we identify census block groups in Phoenix based on the decade during which they became developed in order to observe landscape variation based on the age of a neighborhood area. Results confirm substantial variation in present-day land cover patterns based on the timing of development: landscape structure in Phoenix is heavily path-dependent. While land covers in newer-developing regions generally appear more fragmented, more homogeneous, and less diverse, the complexity of shapes and incidence of desert landscaping appear to be higher as well. Areas that developed principally during the 1990s and 2000s appear noticeably different than their older counterparts across many measures used. We speculate that institutional changes and evolving preferences for various development types explain much of this present-day variation. 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

published proceedings

  • Applied Geography

author list (cited authors)

  • Kane, K., Connors, J. P., & Galletti, C. S.

citation count

  • 33

complete list of authors

  • Kane, Kevin||Connors, John P||Galletti, Christopher S

publication date

  • August 2014