Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 53–69 | Cite as

Land-cover fragmentation and configuration of ownership parcels in an exurban landscape

  • Derek Thomas RobinsonEmail author


The rate of low-density development beyond the urban and suburban periphery, known as exurban areas, has occurred at a rate faster than both urban and population growth and has the potential to affect water quality, carbon storage, and habitat availability. This paper is aimed at understanding the relationships between the heterogeneity of the human and natural components of the land system and their interactions, through assessment of residential land-cover characteristics and ownership parcels in these poorly understood exurban lands. New data are presented that describe the distribution of land-cover quantities and their degree of fragmentation in three townships in Southeastern Michigan. Analysis of land-cover data, collected from aerial photographs from 1950–2000 and digitized with a 10 m minimum mapping unit, provide an empirical link between lot-size and vegetation. Results show, among other findings, 1) the quantity and pattern of land-cover types significantly differ with parcel size, 2) the degree of difference was greatest between small parcels and all other sizes and least among large parcels, and 3) of five landscape metrics used to evaluate the quantity and fragmentation of land-cover types in residential parcels, the percent of parcel area provided the strongest delineation of differences in land cover among parcel sizes. Capturing quantities and patterns of land-cover at different sizes of land (parcel) ownership provide new data that can be coupled to ecosystem literature and models to link the outcomes of residential land-cover processes with simple ecosystem functions (e.g. carbon storage, albedo). Understanding how residential land-use and management processes collectively create regional land-cover patterns can provide insight into how residential lands might be managed to mitigate the effects of land change on climate.


Exurban Residential land-use Parcel size Land-cover Landscape metrics 



Support for research was provided by the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute (GESI) at the University of Michigan, and the National Science Foundation (BCS-0119804 and GEO-0814542) for Project SLUCE. The author would also like to acknowledge with gratitude the intellectual support of Daniel Brown, William Currie, Rick Riolo, Scott Page, Mark Rounsevell, Jason Taylor, Lesslie Garrison, Owen Campbell, Daniel Mehdi, and Thomas Simmons. Lastly, the author would like to thank three anonymous reviewers and the editor for their constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of GeoSciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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