Nav: Home

Rugosity and concentricity: In urban planning, look to edges, not just the core

April 26, 2018

Catherine Brinkley is a professor of human and community development and human ecology at UC Davis. So it's interesting that in a recent published paper, she advocates that cities should work more like coral reefs -- supporting a diversity of niches and uses for sustained vigor and resilience. In ecology and medical sciences, the term for a physical form with such topographic complexity is rugosity.

Rugosity versus concentricity

Traditional urban planning favors "concentric" layouts with a downtown core surrounded by suburbs and farmland (right). But Catherine Brinkley argues instead that cities should plan for "rugosity" (left) with more interfaces between functions.

For two centuries, the guiding theory in urban development has held that cities need a dense central core with the low-density suburbs and farmlands circling around that center. This design is referred to as concentric.

Brinkley challenges that status quo in her article -- "High rugosity cities: The geographic, economic and regulator pathology of America's most non-concentric urban areas." The article was published in Land Use Policy this winter.

Cities like a hand with fingers, not concentric circles

"Higher urban rugosity can be achieved by maximizing the urban interface through implementation of greenbelts, green wedges, and wildlife habitat corridors," she said in the article.

Brinkley cites examples such as Portland, Oregon; Copenhagen, Denmark; and to some extent, San Francisco. Even though San Francisco is a very compact city, it has Golden Gate Park in the middle. It breaks up urban space with green space, she said.

In her study, Brinkley looked at 483 urban areas in the United States that also had farmland and green space around them. Several of the places studied are dominated by large state or national parks, lakes, and water ways.

The only commonality among the top 30 high-rugosity counties she identified--since they had dissimilar county, state or local planning governance structures -- is that they were under extreme pressure to both develop housing and have abundant productive farmland. Nearly a third of the counties in the top 30 had experienced high population growth in recent years.

Additionally, many of the counties with the highest-rugosity urban interfaces are in the top agricultural producing counties in the U.S..

Farmland and urban growth

The way high-rugosity counties achieved their status varied, according to the study:
  • Pasco County, Florida, which includes the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, can attribute much of its urban rugosity to environmental protection zones borne out of a county effort to preserve wildlife corridors.
  • Robertson County, in Tennessee (Nashville-Davidson area), with the most non-concentric urban area of all counties studied, historically had grass-roots support for farmland conservation even under intense pressure to develop.
  • Visalia, in Tulare County, California, has achieved one of the most non-concentric urban areas in the U.S., even though the Visalia General Plan calls for the county to "manage planning area growth to be contiguous and concentric from the city's core area."


Brinkley maintains that building cities that interweave farms and greenways could accommodate more population growth, with high density housing and office space on public transit routes. This would put higher density development near the desirable urban edge where housing can offer a premium.

Farmland can also be better integrated, she said.

"Developers are now building housing around farmlands the way we used to build around golf courses," she said. Farms closer to cities generate more profit per acre because they have greater opportunities for direct marketing sales to their neighbors, she added.

Brinkley sees her research as extending the concept of "mixed-use" development from the neighborhood to a regional scale. There is also evidence that interweaving urban use and farmlands could help decrease the urban heat island effect and improve stormwater runoff management, Brinkley said. A heat island refers to a metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities and lack of vegetation.

"In sum," she says in her article, "these findings push the boundaries of modern planning to reconsider the periphery as important in shaping total landscape development."
-end-
More information

Full article available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264837716310134

University of California - Davis

Related Population Growth Articles:

Population only part of tornado casualty story
New research out of Florida State University shows that the strength of a tornado has a significantly larger effect than population on the number of casualties.
A new T-cell population for cancer immunotherapy
Scientists at the University of Basel in Switzerland have, for the first time, described a new T cell population that can recognize and kill tumor cells.
Population density pushes the 'slow life'
A new study by Arizona State University shows one psychological effect of population density is for those people living in urban areas to adopt a 'slow life strategy.' This strategy focuses more on planning for the long-term future and includes tactics like preferring long-term romantic relationships, having fewer children and investing more in education.
Clownfish adapt for population survival
Identification of candidate pathways in clownfish shows they can control responses to population alterations.
Sustainable Development Goals lead to lower population growth
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals would significantly slow population growth, according to a new study.
New approach may be key to improving US population health
The United States spends more on health care than any other country in the world, yet the life expectancy of its citizens is significantly shorter when compared to other high-income countries.
Human footprint surprisingly outpaced by population and economic growth
The global impact of human activities on the natural environment is extensive, but those impacts are expanding at a slower rate than the rate of economic and population growth.
Population boom preceded early farming
University of Utah anthropologists counted the number of carbon-dated artifacts at archaeological sites and concluded that a population boom and scarce food explain why people in eastern North America domesticated plants for the first time on the continent about 5,000 years ago.
Substantial growth in ordering of CTA exams in Medicare population
According to a new study by the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute, the last 13 years have seen a substantial growth in the use of computed tomography angiography examinations in the Medicare population, particularly in the emergency department setting.
USU ecologists propose new method to probe population growth questions
To close the gap between contemporary reality and demographic theory, Utah State University ecologists and colleagues developed a set of transient life table response experiments for decomposing realized population growth rates into contributions from specific vital rates and components of population structure.

Related Population Growth Reading:

Feeding the Ten Billion: Plants and Population Growth
by Lloyd T. Evans (Author)

Seven Billion and Counting: The Crisis in Global Population Growth
by Michael M. Andregg (Author)

Population
by NubiTales

Global Issues: Population Growth (on-level)
by National Geographic Learning (Author)

Coping With Population Growth (The Environment Challenge)
by Nicola Barber (Author)

Medicine and Politics in Colonial Peru: Population Growth and the Bourbon Reforms (Pitt Latin American Series)
by Adam Warren (Author)

The Conditions of Agricultural Growth: The Economics of Agrarian Change Under Population Pressure
by Routledge

Population Capital & Growth: Selected Essays
by Simon Kuznets (Author)

The End of World Population Growth in the 21st Century: New Challenges for Human Capital Formation and Sustainable Development (Population and Sustainable Development)
by Wolfgang Lutz (Editor), Warren Sandersen (Editor), Sergei Scherbov (Editor)

The Malthusian Moment: Global Population Growth and the Birth of American Environmentalism (Studies in Modern Science, Technology, a)
by Thomas Robertson (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Approaching With Kindness
We often forget to say the words "thank you." But can those two words change how you — and those around you — look at the world? This hour, TED speakers on the power of gratitude and appreciation. Guests include author AJ Jacobs, author and former baseball player Mike Robbins, Dr. Laura Trice, Professor of Management Christine Porath, and former Danish politician Özlem Cekic.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#509 Anisogamy: The Beginning of Male and Female
This week we discuss how the sperm and egg came to be, and how a difference of reproductive interest has led to sexual conflict in bed bugs. We'll be speaking with Dr. Geoff Parker, an evolutionary biologist credited with developing a theory to explain the evolution of two sexes, about anisogamy, sexual reproduction through the fusion of two different gametes: the egg and the sperm. Then we'll speak with Dr. Roberto Pereira, research scientist in urban entomology at the University of Florida, about traumatic insemination in bed bugs.