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Photo: DSearls/Creative Commons

Some people may be exploring alternative communities of farmers and retirees out in the countryside, but it seems fair to say that much of NC’s future housing growth is likely to come in the form of urban and suburban developments. In fact, a team of NC State researchers is predicting that we could see a large swathe of the region develop into a  “Megalopolis” that stretches all the way from Raleigh to Atlanta:

Urban areas in the Southeastern United States will double in size by 2060 unless there are significant changes to land development, according to a new study by the Department of Interior’s Southeast Climate Science Center and North Carolina State University.
The predicted growth would come at the expense of agricultural and forest lands, creating an urban “megalopolis” stretching from Raleigh to Atlanta, which also raises a number of ecological concerns.

“If we continue to develop urban areas in the Southeast the way we have for the past 60 years, we can expect natural areas will become increasingly fragmented,” said Adam Terando, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, adjunct assistant professor at NC State, and lead author of the study.  “We could be looking at a seamless corridor of urban development running from Raleigh to Atlanta, and possibly as far as Birmingham, within the next 50 years.”

Left unchecked, such development patterns could have a significant impact on wildlife and biodiversity, increasing the heat island effect and potentially causing more environmental impact for inland areas than climate change, say researchers.

The research has attracted significant attention from the media, including reports in The Washington Post, on NPR, Conservation Magazine and the Weather Channel.