, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 29–40 | Cite as

Contrasting Patterns of Urban Expansion in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia Between 1992 and 2009

  • Nora L. Álvarez-Berríos
  • Isabel K. Parés-Ramos
  • T. Mitchell Aide


The global urban population is increasing rapidly, but patterns of urban expansion differ greatly among countries. Urban transition theory predicts that the shift from low to high urbanization depends on a country’s history and level of economic development. This study describes urban expansion in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia between 1992 and 2009. Urban dynamics were analyzed by combining nighttime lights and census data from 4032 municipalities. High-lit areas (>52–63 pixel values) were correlated with urban populations across municipalities and years (R 2 > 0.90). Analyses showed that between 1992 and 2009 Bolivia and Ecuador had rapid population growth and rapidly increasing high-lit areas, while Peru and Colombia had lower rates of population growth and urbanization (i.e., expansion of high-lit areas). We demonstrate how nighttime lights can be a useful tool, providing a homogeneous platform for multi-scale analyses of urban growth.


Andean countries Nighttime lights Population growth Urban expansion Urban transition 



This project was partially funded by a grant from the Coupled Natural and Human Systems program of the U.S. National Science Foundation (# 0709598). NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship Program (# 0801577), and NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program provided financial support to N.A-B. The Land Tenure Center in UW-Madison facilitated access to data. We thank Daniel Redo, Sheila Ward, Serge Aucoin, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nora L. Álvarez-Berríos
    • 1
  • Isabel K. Parés-Ramos
    • 2
  • T. Mitchell Aide
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of Puerto Rico-Río PiedrasSan JuanUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of Puerto Rico-Río PiedrasSan JuanUSA

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