How were cities distributed globally in the past? How many people lived in these cities? How did cities influence their local and regional environments? In order to understand the current era of urbanization, we must understand long-term historical urbanization trends and patterns. However, to date there is no comprehensive record of spatially explicit, historic, city-level population data at the global scale. Here, we developed the first spatially explicit dataset of urban settlements from 3700 BC to AD 2000, by digitizing, transcribing, and geocoding historical, archaeological, and census-based urban population data previously published in tabular form by Chandler and Modelski. The dataset creation process also required data cleaning and harmonization procedures to make the data internally consistent. Additionally, we created a reliability ranking for each geocoded location to assess the geographic uncertainty of each data point. The dataset provides the first spatially explicit archive of the location and size of urban populations over the last 6,000 years and can contribute to an improved understanding of contemporary and historical urbanization trends.
Studies have shown that natural environments can enhance health and here we build upon that work by examining the associations between comprehensive greenspace metrics and health. We focused on a large urban population center (Toronto, Canada) and related the two domains by combining high-resolution satellite imagery and individual tree data from Toronto with questionnaire-based self-reports of general health perception, cardio-metabolic conditions and mental illnesses from the Ontario Health Study. Results from multiple regressions and multivariate canonical correlation analyses suggest that people who live in neighborhoods with a higher density of trees on their streets report significantly higher health perception and significantly less cardio-metabolic conditions (controlling for socio-economic and demographic factors). We find that having 10 more trees in a city block, on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $10,000 higher median income or being 7 years younger. We also find that having 11 more trees in a city block, on average, decreases cardio-metabolic conditions in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $20,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $20,000 higher median income or being 1.4 years younger.
Timings of human activities are marked by circadian clocks which in turn are entrained to different environmental signals. In an urban environment the presence of artificial lighting and various social cues tend to disrupt the natural entrainment with the sunlight. However, it is not completely understood to what extent this is the case. Here we exploit the large-scale data analysis techniques to study the mobile phone calling activity of people in large cities to infer the dynamics of urban daily rhythms. From the calling patterns of about 1,000,000 users spread over different cities but lying inside the same time-zone, we show that the onset and termination of the calling activity synchronizes with the east-west progression of the sun. We also find that the onset and termination of the calling activity of users follows a yearly dynamics, varying across seasons, and that its timings are entrained to solar midnight. Furthermore, we show that the average mid-sleep time of people living in urban areas depends on the age and gender of each cohort as a result of biological and social factors.
Rural development initiatives across the developing world are designed to improve community well-being and livelihoods. However they may also have unforeseen consequences, in some cases placing further demands on stretched public services. In this paper we use data from a longitudinal study of five Ethiopian villages to investigate the impact of a recent rural development initiative, installing village-level water taps, on rural to urban migration of young adults. Our previous research has identified that tap stands dramatically reduced child mortality, but were also associated with increased fertility. We demonstrate that the installation of taps is associated with increased rural-urban migration of young adults (15-30 years) over a 15 year period (15.5% migrate out, n = 1912 from 1280 rural households). Young adults with access to this rural development intervention had three times the relative risk of migrating to urban centres compared to those without the development. We also identify that family dynamics, specifically sibling competition for limited household resources (e.g. food, heritable land and marriage opportunities), are key to understanding the timing of out-migration. Birth of a younger sibling doubled the odds of out-migration and starting married life reduced it. Rural out-migration appears to be a response to increasing rural resource scarcity, principally competition for agricultural land. Strategies for livelihood diversification include education and off-farm casual wage-labour. However, jobs and services are limited in urban centres, few migrants send large cash remittances back to their families, and most return to their villages within one year without advanced qualifications. One benefit for returning migrants may be through enhanced social prestige and mate-acquisition on return to rural areas. These findings have wide implications for current understanding of the processes which initiate rural-to-urban migration and transitions to low fertility, as well as for the design and implementation of development intervention across the rural and urban developing world.
Whilst being hailed as the remedy to the world’s ills, cities will need to adapt in the 21(st) century. In particular, the role of public transport is likely to increase significantly, and new methods and technics to better plan transit systems are in dire need. This paper examines one fundamental aspect of transit: network centrality. By applying the notion of betweenness centrality to 28 worldwide metro systems, the main goal of this paper is to study the emergence of global trends in the evolution of centrality with network size and examine several individual systems in more detail. Betweenness was notably found to consistently become more evenly distributed with size (i.e. no “winner takes all”) unlike other complex network properties. Two distinct regimes were also observed that are representative of their structure. Moreover, the share of betweenness was found to decrease in a power law with size (with exponent 1 for the average node), but the share of most central nodes decreases much slower than least central nodes (0.87 vs. 2.48). Finally the betweenness of individual stations in several systems were examined, which can be useful to locate stations where passengers can be redistributed to relieve pressure from overcrowded stations. Overall, this study offers significant insights that can help planners in their task to design the systems of tomorrow, and similar undertakings can easily be imagined to other urban infrastructure systems (e.g., electricity grid, water/wastewater system, etc.) to develop more sustainable cities.
Interventions of central, top-down planning are serious limitations to the possibility of modelling the dynamics of cities. An example is the city of Paris (France), which during the 19th century experienced large modifications supervised by a central authority, the ‘Haussmann period’. In this article, we report an empirical analysis of more than 200 years (1789-2010) of the evolution of the street network of Paris. We show that the usual network measures display a smooth behavior and that the most important quantitative signatures of central planning is the spatial reorganization of centrality and the modification of the block shape distribution. Such effects can only be obtained by structural modifications at a large-scale level, with the creation of new roads not constrained by the existing geometry. The evolution of a city thus seems to result from the superimposition of continuous, local growth processes and punctual changes operating at large spatial scales.
Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a disabling and disfiguring disease resulting from a mosquito-borne parasitic infection. It is a major public health problem in many countries with a warm climate. Research and control activities have mainly focused on LF in rural areas where it also has its major impact. However, with rapid and unplanned growth of cities in the developing world, there is a need also to consider LF transmission and control in urban settings. Here, we review currently available knowledge on urban LF and the environmental and socio-economic basis for its occurrence. Among the three parasite species causing LF in humans, only Wuchereria bancrofti has been documented to have a significant potential for urban transmission. This is primarily because one of its vectors, Culex quinquefasciatus, thrives and proliferates excessively in crowded city areas with poor sanitary, sewerage and drainage facilities. For this reason, urban LF also often shows a marked focality in distribution, with most cases clustered in areas inhabited by the less privileged city populations. More knowledge on urban LF is needed, in particular on its socio-economic and human behavioural context, on the potential for transmission in regions where other LF vector species predominate, and on rapid methods for identification and mapping of risk areas, to provide a strong evidence base for its control.
There is little knowledge about the use of point-of-care (POC) tests among general practitioners (GPs). The aim of this study was to determine which POC tests are known and used by GPs and how they estimate the usefulness of those tests. The use of POC tests among GPs and university-associated general practitioners who teach undergraduates (GPTUs) was elucidated. Differences between GPs working in urban and rural areas were also investigated.
There is wide agreement that there is a lack of attention to health in municipal environmental policy-making, such as urban planning and regeneration. Explanations for this include differing professional norms between health and urban environment professionals, system complexity and limited evidence for causality between attributes of the built environment and health outcomes. Data from urban health indicator (UHI) tools are potentially a valuable form of evidence for local government policy and decision-makers. Although many UHI tools have been specifically developed to inform policy, there is poor understanding of how they are used. This study aims to identify the nature and characteristics of UHI tools and their use by municipal built environment policy and decision-makers.
Urban green mapping has become an operational task in city planning, urban land management, and quality of life assessments. As a multi-dimensional, integrative concept, urban green comprising several ecological, socio-economic, and policy-related aspects. In this paper, the author advances the representation of urban green by deriving scale-adapted, policy-relevant units. These so-called geons represent areas of uniform green valuation under certain size and homogeneity constraints in a spatially explicit representation. The study accompanies a regular monitoring scheme carried out by the urban municipality of the city of Salzburg, Austria, using optical satellite data. It was conducted in two stages, namely SBG_QB (10.2 km², QuickBird data from 2005) and SBG_WV (140 km², WorldView-2 data from 2010), within the functional urban area of Salzburg. The geon delineation was validated by several quantitative measures and spatial analysis techniques, as well as ground documentation, including panorama photographs and visual interpretation. The spatial association pattern was assessed by calculating Global Moran’s I with incremental search distances. The final geonscape, consisting of 1083 units with an average size of 13.5 ha, was analyzed by spatial metrics. Finally, categories were derived for different types of functional geons. Future research paths and improvements to the described strategy are outlined.