Precise mapping, spatial structure and classification of all the human settlements on Earth
Emanuele Strano, Filippo Simini, Marco De Nadai, Thomas Esch, Mattia Marconcini
Human settlements (HSs) on Earth have a direct impact on all natural and societal systems but detailed and quantitative measurements of the locations and spatial structures of all HSs on Earth are still under debate. We provide here the World Settlement Footprint 2015, an unprecedented 10 m resolution global spatial inventory of HSs and a precise quantitative analysis and spatial model of their coverage, geography and morphology. HSs are estimated to cover 1.47% of the habitable global dry-land surface and can be classified, by means of their deviation from scaling structure, into four main pattern typologies. A minimal spatial model, based on dynamic interactions between dispersal and centralized urbanization, is able to reproduce all the settlement patterns across regions. Our dataset and settlement model can be used to improve the modelling of global land use changes and human land use cycles and interactions and can ultimately advance our understanding of global anthropization processes and human-induced environmental changes.