Urban infrastructure expansion and artificial light pollution degrade coastal ecosystems, increasing natural-to-urban structural connectivity

Moisés A. Aguilera, María Gracia González

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17 Scopus citations


Urbanization is provoking habitat loss and fragmentation, driving rapid landscape transformation worldwide. Remnant habitats in urban areas can be especially prone to degradation by human activities at short time scales, and poor planning during urban expansion can erode their structural and functional connectivity. Foredunes in particular are threatened significantly by human activities, including coastal urban infrastructure expansion, by bulldozing them and/or by interrupting their continuity across the shoreline, and also by associated light pollution. However, there is still scarce quantification about how urban processes determine changes in remnant habitat extent and modify the configuration of structural connectivity in coastal urban settings. Using an expanding conurbation located in north-central Chile (∼29°S) as model system, we investigated the rate of coastal foredune loss and spatial fragmentation due to urban expansion, and the change in the type of structural connectivity, i.e. with other natural habitats vs with urban infrastructure. Based on map analyses of structural connectivity among habitats and with urban infrastructure through time, we estimated foredune habitat extent and fragmentation and their shared border with other habitats and built infrastructure during two time intervals, 2010–2015 and 2015–2020. Distribution and intensity of light pollution on present foredunes were also quantified in situ through field sampling. We found 36 % decline in foredune area and increase in their connection with urban infrastructure. Urban wetlands and parallel dunes also experienced persistent area loss and increase in connection with urban infrastructure. Light pollution was intense in the foredune-beach ecotone. Given the rapid erosion of functional and structural connectivity of natural habitats, it becomes imperious to halt the reduction of remnant habitats and ecotones, and improve natural corridors in urban settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104609
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
StatePublished - Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Coastal landscapes
  • Conurbation
  • Foredunes
  • Structural connectivity
  • Urbanization


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