Analyzing factors affecting land use change at rural areas of Mashhad’s urban fringe

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant professor of geography in Ferdowsi university of Mashhad

2 M.A student of geography and rural planning of Ferdowsi University


Extensive immigration to the cities adds to the natural growth of population. This, not only makes the large cities grow, but also leads the spatial expansion of these cities towards the arable land and orchards. It ultimately affects the natural environment and transforms the countryside. Its outcome is the formation of informal settlements around cities and villages in transition. In fact, one of the negative consequences of rapid urbanization is the encroachment of the fertile agricultural land of the fringe. Land use changes in rural areas located at the rural-urban fringe have become a growing and serious issue that needs to be studied. The function of these areas is changing by converting productive-agriculture sector to residential and service sector. Rapid and constant land use change of rural areas at the urban fringe and their physical development give rise to the form of rural-urban interface. Therefore studying the factors affecting land use change is essential to sustainable land use management and control.
Most research concentrate on the amount of land use change of rural-urban fringe and also study the driving forces behind such phenomena. In this study, we tried to integrate all factors and driving forces of land use change from local and rural managers’ opinion. Therefore, rural areas in the outskirts of Mashhad, which is the one of the rapidly growing populations in the east and northeast of Iran, are selected as the case study. The growing city of Mashhad has experienced extensive land use change at its surrounding villages. So, the main objective of this study is analyzing the driving forces of vast land use change at rural areas of Mashhad’s fringe through the rural managers’ point of view. The research questions addressed in this study are: 1) What are the driving forces behind the rapid land use change of rural areas around Mashhad, 2) What of these is the strongest contributing factor towards land use change in Mashhad?
This study uses a methodology of survey and explanatory research. It is aimed to assess both internal and external factors affecting land use change in the rural areas at the fringe of Mashhad. The methods of data collection are registration and questionnaires. Before the surveys, the driving forces of land use change have been determined by reviewing existing studies.  Then the questionnaires were designed and filled out by local authorities. The statistical population was made up of rural managers, including rural administrators and rural Islamic councils living in 18 rural areas in the outskirts of the metropolitan area of Mashhad. In order to achieve the intended purpose, the questionnaire has been filled out by all of the 74 rural managers of chosen areas, which are concerned with employers of the Foundation of Housing of Rural Settlements of Khorasan Razavi province. 
These rural areas have encountered an extensive land use change in recent years and had documents of infringement. Through this study, 25 indices were determined, in 8 factors and 4 dimensions, which are; legal, physical-spatial, economic, and social-demographic. The measuring instrument was a questionnaire designed in the form of Likert scale. To analyze data and determine the amount of impact of identified factors, statistical analysis is used, with SPSS descriptive statistics (frequency and percentage) and inferential statistics including T-test to compare the averages and non-parametric Spearman correlation test to realize the inter-relationships between variables.  In addition, several methods of weighting are applied, such as ranking methods (Rank sum, rank exponent method, and Reciprocal rank), Paired Comparison Analysis and Shannon entropy to understand the weight of each of the factors affecting land use change.
Research findings
Among the variables, the mean positive changes of population, family qualification and land price changes are more than 4.  The average values ​​obtained in five indices (the inefficiency of the legal framework, proximity and availability, parcel size, reduction in growth of agricultural activity and real estate transactions) are slightly higher than the theoretical mean (3) which indicate the intensity of impact on land use change. Also, the average weighting methods show that the increase in population, at 15.2 percent, is the strongest factor affecting land use change. The weighting methods indicate the role of each factor on providing land use management and control and reducing the amount of land use change. The score of Shannon entropy for social-demographic factors is 0.4, economic factors 0.35, physical-spatial 0.2 and the inefficiency of legal framework is 0.05. This outcome confirms the T-test results, including social and then economic factors as the strongest contributing factors on land use change.
In general, it can be stated that the factors affecting land use change in rural areas vary significantly from area to area according to the actual and potential rural functions. In other words, there is not an identical pattern of land use change in the rural areas at the urban fringe. As none of the studied rural areas are recreational sites, it can be seen that the main cause of land use change in non-recreational villages is the phenomena of suburbanization and the need for housing for the poor. It seems clear that, with the current situation, the control mechanism and land use management have faced severe challenges. In addition this study can provide an example for smaller cities to determine the driving forces and levels of impact of each factor on land use change in these cities. Therefore, recommendations on this issue include: 
1.  Increasing local awareness to the consequences of land use change.
2. Attracting rural managers’ attention to the driving forces of land use change in the process of rural planning.
3. Reinforcing the legal framework for rural land use management, especially at the urban fringe.
4. Controlling the land price at the urban fringe.

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