Global Distribution and Density of Constructed Impervious Surfaces

We present the first global inventory of the spatial distribution and density of constructed impervious surface area (ISA). Examples of ISA include roads, parking lots, buildings, driveways, sidewalks and other manmade surfaces. While high spatial resolution is required to observe these features, the product we made is at one km2 resolution and is based on two coarse resolution indicators of ISA. Inputs into the product include the brightness of satellite observed nighttime lights and population count. The reference data used in the calibration were derived from 30 meter resolution ISA estimates of the USA from the U.S. Geological Survey. Nominally the product is for the years 2000-01 since both the nighttime lights and reference data are from those two years. We found that 1.05% of the United States land area is impervious surface (83,337 km2 ) and 0.43% of the world's land surface (579,703 km2 ) is constructed impervious surface. China has more ISA than any other country (87,182 km2 ), but has only 67 m2 of ISA per person, compared to 297 m2 per person in the USA. Hyrdologic and environmental impacts of ISA begin to be exhibited when the density of ISA reaches 10% of the land surface. An examination of the areas with 10% or more ISA in watersheds finds that with the exception of Europe, the majority of watershed areas have less than 0.4% of their area at or above the 10% ISA threshold. The authors believe the next step for improving the product is to include reference ISA data from many more areas around the world.
'Global Distribution and Density of Constructed Impervious Surfaces' Paper