Remote Sensing and GIS for Sustainable Urban Development Research: Old Questions, New Approaches, and Remaining Gaps

Chair:  Maik Netzband, (
Co-chair:  Alexandru-Ionut  Petrisor, (

Short  Description:
In recent years Urban Remote Sensing (URS) has proved to be a useful tool for intra and cross-scale urban sustainability research as humankind increasingly faced the challenges of an urbanizing world. Rapid change in physical characteristics of human environments can now be tracked at several scales - local (e.g. urban core settlements), regional (forest cover changes, agricultural land losses, urban to peri-urban demographic development) and global (URS allows scientists to gather important information in the context of human environment interactions such as the environmental consequences of different social, economic, and demographic processes and phenomena).
Studies concentrating on the worldwide urbanization challenges and its interconnections to the global environmental change still claim an unmet need for linked spatial and socio-demographic information. The gap between social-science and remote-sensing research is well documented. Difficulties arise from a lack of correspondence in nature or landscape units to grids or even small-scale administrative units; remote sensing information is imperfectly coupled with social science data streams (from surveys, ethnographic research and other tools). Methods are improving but cross-disciplinary skills still need better integration and forethought. The potential benefits of bridging the gap are great and voices in support of advances in methods and techniques of URS and their integration with social science are multiplying as the social value of such an effort becomes obvious.
This session seeks to better understand how urban remote sensing can best be utilized by both researchers and practitioners in urban ecology, planning, and policy formulation. Two major questions addressed by the session are: What is the potential of URS for an integrated interdisciplinary planning and social science with a focus on urban ecology and sustainability? How can URS fill the gaps in scientific information for the needs of integrated spatial science? What particular requirements need URS tools to better serve their purpose?