A renewed look at Europe’s population distribution


A new map developed by the JRC provides a more accurate picture of how population is distributed in the EU. With a resolution of 100 x 100 metres, the map allows visual, quantitative and qualitative comparisons between different territories, cities and regions. This is thanks to the combination of statistical population data reported at commune level with several detailed cartographic datasets on the location of residential areas.

Focusing the map on European capital cities reveals a diversity of structures and morphologies, from the least populated (e.g. Tallinn, Bratislava or Riga) to the most populated (e.g. Madrid, London or Paris). While Madrid and Paris show large and compact city cores with generally very high population densities, London’s central area still shows an overall high residential density, with moderate residential density at the centre, which gradually declines towards the periphery in a radial pattern. Berlin, on the contrary, shows a more homogeneous pattern, with very large areas around the centre with medium to high population densities. Other cities such as Rome or Lisbon show less compact residential cores and rather disperse peripheries with overall low population densities. This diversity is a result of demographic processes in interaction with the local geographies, cultural idiosyncrasies, and urban planning policies and practices.

This high resolution grid map covers the whole of the EU, plus Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, providing new perspectives not only for the EU capitals, but also for the whole territory, estimating the number of inhabitants for cells of 100 x 100 meters. This way, the JRC provides the scientific community and society with realistic, detailed maps of up-to-date population distribution. The level of accuracy provided closes an important gap in information essential to support research in areas such as vulnerability to natural and anthropogenic hazards, exposure to water contamination, and air and noise pollution. In addition, the maps provide relevant input for analysis of urban morphology, accessibility of the population to services of general interest, classification of urban and rural areas, as well as for local and regional economy.

Methodology used
To produce a realistic depiction of the population distribution for the EU, JRC researchers have applied a new method developed in-house to disaggregate reported population data collected by each Member State’s statistical office at commune level, into 100x100m grid cells.

The results obtained relied on two ancillary datasets: a refined version of the land use/cover map CORINE Land Cover (CLC), which provided information on the residential areas, and a map depicting the imperviousness of the soil, which served as a proxy for housing density. Both ancillary datasets have a spatial resolution of 100 x 100m, and refer to the most recent data available (2006).

The combination of these new input datasets allowed greater accuracy when compared to traditional methods which provide a less accurate depiction of the distribution of the population in Europe. Conventional population distribution maps, in particular those based on irregular administrative boundaries, are not appropriate for analysis in many research fields, and might result in significant distortions.

These new high resolution grid maps present an attractive visual and quantitative look at population distribution in Europe.

Source: European Commission JRC (Joint Research Centre)

One Response to “A renewed look at Europe’s population distribution”
  1. The difference between London and Madrid is huge in terms of density- Madrid is far more concentrated. London is such a booming city- the population is increasing all the time, and increasingly more diverse- the issue of how to deal with housing all these people is a major issue, and while the historic character of London means we have preserved many of the older large detached houses and town houses in places outside the immediate centre, it also means London has been allowed to sprawl outwards. There are plenty of new high rise apartment buildings all over the city, but the question for London is whether to continue trying to densify the existing city, or to manage growth in other ways such as satellite towns. How is it that Madrid has developed in such a (seemingly) uniform, high density pattern?

    Also, check out our blog (MA Urban Design, Newcastle University) at http://www.nclurbandesign.org

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