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Urban encroachment, Land-use and demographic change: Empirical evidence from Italy

Ilaria Tombolini, Ilaria Zambon, Kostas Rontos, Luca Salvati


Investigating land-use dynamics worldwide has revealed that one of the most significant socioeconomic processes is the progressive decrease of surface area intended for agricultural use. Land loss is accompanied by the increase in both artificial areas, wooded areas and semi-natural environments and a parallel decrease of cropland. Two kinds of urban growth exhibit very different soil consumption rates and characteristics. Compact growth involves almost total saturation and natural soil sealing; conversely, a dispersed city is characterized by the coexistence of buildings and green areas, which guarantees a partial persistence of natural features. Soil consumption is only partly related to demographic growth in Italy. While trends in resident population in Italy have stabilized since the 1980s, soil sealing was growing at a high and almost constant growth rate over time. The intensity of use, i.e. the ratio between the number of inhabitants and the sealing surface, represents an effective indicator for assessing settlement types. The systematic analysis of how much soil is consumed, combined with the evaluation of the quality and uses that the soil itself had before being transformed, is an indispensable element to support decisions in the sphere of land policy.


land consumption, dwelling type, urbanization, Mediterranean.

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