One of the most obvious examples of changing land use is found around cities, said the study’s lead author and former UC postdoctoral fellow Jakub Nowosad.
“The direct impact of human actions is reflected in the patterns of urbanization. For example, you can see suburbanization and cities densification in North America and Europe,” said Nowosad, now an assistant professor at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland.
UC geography researcher Pawel Netzel also contributed to the project.
Nowosad said western China has seen vast urbanization while India’s most obvious development has been in its smaller cities.
“I hope this map will make people more aware of the human impact on our planet,” Nowosad said. “As a society, we need to be better informed of the scale of changes we make to the Earth, and in my opinion, this awareness can influence future changes in environmental policies.”
Nowosad said his map does not draw any inferences about what the next 24 years might bring. But demographics suggest our footprint will only get bigger.
“Human population is still increasing, creating more demand for land and natural resources,” Nowosad said. “Also, we know that societies in developed countries use more resources; therefore, with increasing development in poorer countries we can expect that pressure on land will be even larger than just predicted as an effect of population growth.”