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Several studies in recent years have forecasted global urban expansion and examined its potential impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The amount of urban land near protected areas (PAs) is expected to increase, on average, by more than three times between 2000 and 2030 (from 450,000 km2 circa 2000) around the world. During the same time period, the urban land in biodiversity hotspots, areas with high concentrations of endemic species, will increase by about four times on average. China will likely become the nation with the most urban land within 50 km of its PAs by 2030. The largest proportional change, however, will likely be in Mid-Latitudinal Africa; its urban land near PAs will increase 20 ± 5 times by 2030. The largest urban expansion in biodiversity hotspots, an increase of over 100,000 km2, is forecasted to occur in South America. The forecasts of the amount and location of urban land expansion are subject to many uncertainties in their underlying drivers including urban population and economic growth. Nevertheless, the direct impacts of urban expansion on biodiversity and ecosystem services will likely be significant. The forecasts point to the need to reconcile urban development and biodiversity conservation strategies. Urbanization will also have impacts on food and food security. While the direct loss of cropland to urban expansion is of concern to the extent that high-yielding croplands are lost, the indirect impacts of urbanization due to dietary changes to more meat-based food products can also be substantial. Presently, regional and global studies that forecast impacts of future urban expansion on biodiversity and ecosystem services are in their infancy and more analyses are needed especially focusing on interactive effects of factors that drive urbanization. We conclude by highlighting the knowledge gaps on implications of future urbanization and suggest research directions that would help fill these gaps.

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This document was originally published by Springer Netherlands in Urbanization, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Challenges and Opportunities. This work is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial. Details regarding the use of this work can be found at: DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-7088-1_22.

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