Modeling the ecological consequences of land-use policies in an urbanizing region

Tenley M. Conway, Richard G. Lathrop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Insight into future land use and effective ways to control land-use change is crucial to addressing environmental change. A variety of growth-control policies have been adopted by municipal and regional governments within the United States to try to minimize the ecological impact of continued urbanization, but it is often unclear if those policies can meet the stated ecological goals. Land-use-change models provide a way to generate predictions of future change, while exploring the impact of different land-use policies before irreversible transformations occur. In this article, an approach to modeling land-use policies that focuses on their ecological consequences is described. The policy simulation approach was used to predict future land use in the Barnegat Bay and Mullica River watersheds, in southeastern New Jersey, USA. Four commonly used policies were considered: down-zoning, cluster development, wetlands/water buffers, and open space protection. The results of the analysis suggest that none of the policies modeled were able to alter future land-use patterns, raising questions about the effectiveness of commonly adopted land-use policies. However, the policy modeling approach used in this study proved to be a useful way to determine if adoption of a given policy could improve the likelihood of meeting ecological goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-291
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


  • Land use
  • Land-use policies
  • Landscape change
  • Modeling
  • New Jersey

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