Urbanization has long been recognized as a major driver for landscape changes in vicinity of major cities and urban systems. Thus, research into urbanization processes has been a traditional field within Landscape Ecology, both in conceptual terms and in relation to model development. Such research is often based on data derived from spatial sources, such as land use and land cover maps and aggregated statistical indicators, such as demography. These data give insight into patterns and trajectories of urban development, but often at generalized or aggregated spatial and temporal scale. Although, such analyses are highly relevant as input to spatial planning and modelling, the current age of mass digitization of historical data as well as the development of Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI), opens up new ground for detailed spatial and temporal analysis of the social, economic and technological drivers behind landscape change around major cities.
This paper unfolds the potential of combining an array of new and traditional digital historical data into a comprehensive analysis of the urbanization process around Copenhagen 1900-2000. Based on an analysis of highly diverse digital material, it is hypothesized that the historical land use structure and ownership patterns of agricultural land in 1900, explains the spatial and temporal development of urbanization of the landscape surrounding Copenhagen. The empirical material used in the study includes both quantitative and qualitative historical data sources; such as digitized historical land use maps, annotated historical aerial photos, census data, text data in form of digitized historical newspapers and register data. In addition to insight into drivers behind the urbanization process, such diverse information also provides new insight into other issues, such as identification of remnants of the traditional landscape and of old habitats, which are important elements for conservation and landscape management as well for the provision of ecologically resilient urban systems.