© Bruce McNitt/Panoramic Images (Virginia)

Virginia Vulnerability Model

The Commonwealth of Virginia has seen its population size double in a little more than 40 years. The current population estimate for Virginia stands at 7.8 million people, with a projected increase to 9.8 million by the year 2030. This increase in population growth is indicative of the attractiveness of Virginia to residents and businesses alike and while it is often thought growth may be good for the economy, sprawling unplanned growth can result in loss and fragmentation of the landscape, destruction of critical habitats and natural resources, disruption of the land’s natural processes, and reduction of lands for agriculture and forestry – one of the largest economic sectors in Virginia.

Natural habitat, open space, forest and agricultural fields, land is being irretrievably lost to development. It is important to be aware of where growth is happening and where it is going in context of the larger landscape so effective land use planning can preserve vital natural resources, habitats and our economic sectors.

Predicting Growth in Virginia

Based on the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Resource Lands Assessment Vulnerability Model, the Virginia Vulnerability Model is one component of the Virginia ConservationVision and aims to show predicted growth patterns in Virginia. The growth prediction may be used as an indication of potential land use change from its current use to an urban, suburban or rural use. The model is used to help prioritize conservation of important resources through an assessment of how growth is predicted to impact that resource.

The Vulnerability Model was developed using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and statistical analyses. The effort first involved identifying where hotspots of growth exist. A hotspot of growth is an area identified as having a higher level of growth than other areas determined through the use of census and impervious surface information (impervious surfaces include non-porous entities, such as parking lots, roads, buildings). Areas where people would live in relation to these high growth areas were calculated based on distance and travel time and the results were used to show where growth is predicted to spread in the landscape.

The Virginia Vulnerability Model is made up of 4 models. The Urban Vulnerability Model which shows where urban growth is occurring and predicted on the landscape. The Suburban (or Urban Fringe) Vulnerability Model displays predicted suburban growth, and the Rural (or outside the urban fringe) Vulnerability Model shows areas of predicted rural growth. Population density and commuting patterns help to define urban, suburban and rural areas (view more comprehensive descriptions of these definitions). The fourth model, the Composite Vulnerability Model, shows where predicted growth is occurring in the landscape, regardless of type of growth.

The Vulnerability Model’s growth prediction is strongest in predicting out to the year 2010. It is important to remember that certain constraints exist and the Vulnerability report should be read before the model is used.

Learn more about and access the Virginia ConservationVision Vulnerability Model.

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