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More than 50 percent of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, and the percentage is expected to continue growing in the near future. Urbanization is more than the expansion of built-up area and should be considered as a complex process that involves social and economic change. It therefore has a significant impact on human-environment interactions.
First, a growing amount of land is now being used for urban functions, including residential areas, industrial zones, infrastructure, but also urban green and recreation areas. Therefore, urban ‘land take’– the process of non-urban areas being converted to urban areas— and its consequences for other land systems, is now of increasing importance in land change assessments. Second, urban land and rural land have often been considered as mutually exclusive systems. However, due to processes such as peri-urbanization, in which rural societies adopt urban livelihoods and counter-urbanization whereby urban populations start with traditional rural practices such as urban farming, this dichotomy no longer holds for large parts of the world. Instead, there is a gradient between strictly urban and strictly rural land, with many locations falling somewhere in between. Third, increasing urbanization has significantly altered the relation between people and the land they depend on for food, fiber and other resources. The concept of urban teleconnections has highlighted such changing relations, and as a result, urbanization also affects rural areas through the resulting changes in production systems.
The objective of this working group is to bring together scientists with a research focus on urban and/or rural land systems, in order to further integrate urbanization into land system science. Such integration will advance land system science towards a more comprehensive understanding about drivers as well as impacts of land system change.
To achieve this objective the working group as a whole will conduct a series of agenda-setting, as well as synthesis activities. The agenda-setting activities aim to highlight the relation between urban and rural land systems, including processes like peri-urbanization and counter-urbanization, and explain the importance of a comprehensive land system approach towards these systems. The synthesis activities aim to collect existing empirical evidence of these activities in order to provide a scientifically sound basis for further analysis. In addition, the goals of individual members include empirical research on urban and rural land systems and their interrelation. It is also an explicit aim of the working group to explore possibilities for joint research by submitting proposals that focus on the integration between urban and rural land systems.
In the section below we identify a number of concrete activities to achieve these aims and fulfill our objectives.