A Study of Unbalanced Morphological Understanding: Morphological Land Use Patterns Analysis of U.S. Megaregions



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Problem: This study identifies some issues in the definitions of US megaregions which have strongly emphasized functional relationships without considering morphological characteristics. An extensive review of the literature revealed that the morphological approach and accompanying spatial statistical analysis described in this paper have not been done before, and represent a potentially useful refinement of current practice.

Research strategy: This study examines morphological characteristics of the 11 US megaregions to represent morphologically-oriented US megaregions. A primary research hypothesis is that the megaregions spatially defined by morphological characteristics may not be the same as the current representation of the 11 US megaregions. The research hypothesis is tested by two distinct analyses which spatially examine the morphological characteristics at global and local scales. The global scale spatial patterns were examined with a density-based sprawl index, spatial scattering index, and spatial clustering index. Local scale spatial patterns were examined with the Getis-Ord Gi* hot spots analysis and the Anselin Local Moran?s I cluster and outlier analysis. In order to represent the megaregion-scale urban built environment, the morphological characteristics of total population, population density, impervious land cover, and nighttime light emissions were examined. All 11 megaregions were subjected to detailed GIS-based analysis and mapping for each morphological characteristic, and the results was analyzed using mapping, tables and graphs.

Findings: The analysis results showed that global scale spatial distributions of morphological characteristics were inconsistently concentrated and clustered in high density subareas of each US megaregion. The morphological clustering representation of the 11 US megaregions clearly showed that the morphologically identified US megaregions were not the same as the current US megaregions.

Takeaway for practice: This study asks the urban and regional planning profession to realize the incompleteness of a functional perspective, add a complementing morphological viewpoint, and balance the perspective between functional relations and morphological characteristics in identifying US megaregions.