GIS Lab: University of Missouri, School of Natural Resources
GIS Lab: University of Missouri, School of Natural Resources

Missouri Urban Sprawl: A Spatially Explicit Study of Historical Trend and Future Prediction


The primary goal of this project is to depict quantitatively and geographically the growth in Missouri. We will assess the current situation and future trends relative to urban and rural sprawl in Missouri and its ecological impacts on the state’s natural landscapes. Specifically, we intend to:

1) spatially quantify the current trends of urban and rural sprawl for all of Missouri over the past 30 years using multi-stage remote sensing imageries;

2) project trends over the next three decades for Missouri under the three sprawl scenarios, using historical trends for model calibration and validation;

3) evaluate the potential ecological/watershed impacts of urban sprawl based on the model predictions.

We examine three alternative growth scenarios: (1) current trends; (2) managed growth with minimum protection placed on resource lands, such as riparian areas, wetlands, forests, and agricultural areas; and (3) managed growth with more explicit level of protection according to these resource lands. These scenarios provide an opportunity to model exurban sprawl in a rapidly changing region1. Current public discussions and policy debates in Missouri are focused on growth control measures broadly referred to as “Smart Growth,” or policies aimed at curbing the detrimental effects of uncontrolled sprawl2. This investigation can contribute significantly to this debate since it will simulate the impacts of alternative land use policies and mitigation strategies on several dimensions of environmental quality and ecosystem health.

1Springfield and Green County population, growth, and urban sprawl (report).
2Smart Growth Network. “Smart Growth State by State,” updated February 20, 2000 at