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-         PUECH (Peri-Urban Environmental CHange)  -




This project examines the scientific understanding of peri-urban areas; the transition zone, or interaction zone, where urban and rural activities are juxtaposed, and landscape features are subject to rapid modifications, induced by anthropogenic activity.  These critical areas of land cover change, leading to transformations in the hydrological, ecological, geomorphological and socio-economic systems, are often neglected by both rural and urban administrations. However, as cities develop, much of their growth is located in such areas.


SCOPE, the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment is an international, non-governmental, non-profit and interdisciplinary body of natural science expertise. Its scientific programme is designed to cover environmental issues - either global or shared by several nations – in urgent need of interdisciplinary syntheses.


SCOPE was established by the International Council for Science (ICSU) in 1969.  Throughout the world, SCOPE brings together scientists from a wide range of disciplines to identify emerging or potential issues likely to influence the world environment.


SCOPE acts at the interface between science and decision-making spheres, providing advisors, policy-planners and decision-makers with the analytical tools to promote sound management and policy practices.


SCOPE takes pride in its track record, bringing attention to bear on emerging issues and foreshadowing a number of the important environmental research programmes which are operative today,  By providing syntheses and assessments of scientific information on global environmental problems and pointing out gaps in knowledge, it indicates new directions for research and innovative approaches.



Importance of changes in peri-urban areas


The problems of peri-urban areas may be direct impacts due to the installation of artificial structures or to general changes in land use in such areas to meet urban requirements as well as local needs, such as the exploitation of clays, sands and gravels for building materials.  They may also be indirect impacts, with the land becoming degraded as owners abandon cultivation and wait for urban land prices to rise, or through the effects of the disposal of wastes, the atmospheric contamination of ecosystems, and the pollution of surface and groundwater bodies.  Environmental degradation in peri-urban areas may threaten the sustainability of cities through both direct and indirect impacts on health and essential life support systems.


Peri-urban areas are highly dynamic in both social and environmental terms.  Migrants coming to cities often set up homes on the fringes of the urban area.  People escaping overcrowding in the city centre also move into peri-urban zones. Members of the old farming families may move out to work in the city or even overseas, while returning overseas workers may come back into the peri-urban zone.  Social contrasts are often abrupt, but many of the poorest people may end up concentrated in peri-urban zones, especially when there is out-migration from rural areas in times of economic hardship. Although cities exert influences for many tens, if not hundreds, of kilometres from their built-up areas, this project focuses on the peri-urban zone immediately adjacent to the city.



Defining the peri-urban zone


Broadly, there are four ways of approaching a definition of peri-urban areas, in terms of:

a)      land cover (green  (vegetated), or blue (water), or built-up areas)

b)      activities (land use types)

c)      administration

d)      houshold livelihood actvities.


This project is adopting the first definition. The peri-urban land cover mosaic usually straddles municipal and rural administrative boundaries, but may often penetrate, along hilltops, waterfronts, or river valleys, well into urban areas.  Ribbon development may also extend fingers of juxtaposed rural and urban activities and land uses several kilometres into the surrounding countryside.



Project objectives


1)                 Identification of both known and possible future, as yet unrecognised, consequences of the complex biophysical and social processes producing environmental changes in peri-urban areas.


2)                 To contribute to a more sustainable world by applying science to the analysis of processes of change, in order to facilitate the production of future alternative strategies, achieve such goals as poverty reduction, the lowering of health risks, more sustainable urban food production, maintenance of biodiversity and effective use of water resources.


3)                 To synthesise and foster science to work towards more sustainable urban regions and effective management solutions, including best practices, for land use activities in peri-urban zones.



Project themes


The work of the project focuses on the following themes and their policy and management implications:


1)                 The nature and rates of land cover/ land use change in peri-urban areas.


2)                 Peri-urban land cover/land use changes and their origins in processes of migration, poverty and the provision of basic human needs.


3)                 Consequences of land cover/ land use changes as induced by materials flows for shelter, manufacturing, infrastructure, transportation: accumulation of the urban “stock”.


4)                 Air and water pollution, soil and land contamination in peri-urban areas and their health and ecosystem impacts.


5)                 Impacts of water use, hydrological and aquatic ecosystem transformation and their consequences.


6)                 Ecology and biodiversity of peri-urban areas: resilience and response especially in stressed environments (includes shoreline and estuarine ecosystems and environments).


7)                 Political and institutional factors in peri-urban environmental change; and policy frameworks for implementing alternatives.



Project operation


The project is directed by a Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) approved by the SCOPE General Assembly.  The SAC will convene regional meetings in different continents to bring together scholars of different disciplines to report on and discuss the key issues, and existing and new and improved ways of tackling them, in the seven project themes.  A synthesis of these views and ideas will be produced after each of those meetings, analysing the common, shared environmental problems, together with specific case studies of the applications of the seven themes.


The chief scientific outputs from the project will be articles for refereed journals, reports on case-study cities and a final overview synthesis volume.  In addition, ways of disseminating the new and exchangeable ideas and best practices to planners, managers and decision makers will be explored and meetings will be held to report back to local and regional communities on the results of the project.


Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC)


The following have agreed to serve on the SAC:

Dr. Tanya Bowyer-Bower, UK

Dr. Barry Costa-Pierce, USA

Dr. Luca Demichelli (EC JRC, Italy)

Dr. Peter Dogse (UNESCO)

Prof. Ian Douglas, UK

Dr. Philip Kelly, Canada

Dr. Eduardo Spiaggi, Argentina

Dr. Chileshe Mulenga, Zambia

Prof. Wang Rusong,


The following also has been invited to join the SAC:

Ir. Henk De Zeeuw, Netherlands



Contact Points

Ian Douglas (Chairman PUECH SAC)

School of Geography

University of Manchester


M13 9PL



SCOPE Secretariat

51 bd de Montmorency,

75016 Paris,


fax +33- 1 42 88 14 66