Journal of Resources and Ecology ›› 2021, Vol. 12 ›› Issue (6): 829-839.DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2021.06.011

• Regional Geography and Ecological Changes • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Changes in the Geographical Distributions of Global Human Settlements

YE Hongtao1,2(), MA Ting1,2,*()   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Resources and Environmental Information System, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2021-02-14 Accepted:2021-05-06 Online:2021-11-30 Published:2022-01-30
  • Contact: MA Ting
  • About author:YE Hongtao, E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    The National Science and Technology Key Project(2016YFB0502301)


In recent decades, the continuous growth in the population has significantly changed the area of human settlements across the globe. The change of human settlements has brought great challenges to human development, environmental change, resource allocation, and disaster prediction and prevention. In the current paper, we integrate data products provided by the European Commission, Joint Research Centre with multi-source remote sensing data to analyze the changing trends of global human settlements under varying geographical distributions from 1990 to 2014. The results demonstrate that on the global scale, human settlements are generally distributed in Europe, East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the eastern United States, the Gulf Coast and the coast of Oceania, with most of them distributed in urban agglomerations and coastal areas. Global human settlements have continued to grow over the past 25 years, mainly in East Asia, Western Europe and the United States. The area of human settlements in eastern Europe has been slightly reduced. The distribution of human settlements is affected by climate, water and terrain conditions. Humans were more likely to have settled in temperate regions with wetter climates, and most of the human settlements are located within 500 km of the coastline and 30 km of land-based water sources. Our results can provide insights into further investigations of the spatio-temporal dynamics of human settlements and its connections to ecological and environmental issues in a changing world.

Key words: human settlements, protected area, temporal and spatial variation, GHSL