Characterising landcover changes and urban sprawl using geospatial techniques and landscape metrics in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (1984–2022)

Shelton Mthunzi Sithole, Walter Musakwa, James Magidi, Alain Y. Kibangou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Urbanisation is a global trend that significantly impacts sustainable urban development and the quality of urban life. Assessing urban sprawl is critical for sustainable urban planning and aligns with the key objectives of the United Nations sustainable development goals. This study employed geospatial technology and landscape metrics to comprehensively assess, map, and quantify the extent of urban sprawl in Bulawayo from 1984 to 2022. The study leveraged the Support Vector Machine (SVM) supervised machine learning algorithm coupled with landscape metrics to achieve this objective. The combined approach allowed for the classification, detection of land cover changes, analysis of urban dynamics, and quantification of the degree of urban sprawl. The results revealed a 228% increase in built-up areas between 1984 and 2022, while non-built-up areas (agricultural land, vegetation, bare land) decreased by 29.28%. The landscape metrics and change analysis indicated an encroachment of urban-like conditions into urban areas. Land use change assessment revealed that Bulawayo exhibits four district types of urban sprawl: leapfrog, strip/ribbon, low density, and infill. Urban expansion is attributed to urbanisation and evolving land use policy. Urban sprawl has numerous urban planning implications on transport management, habitat loss and deforestation, reduction and contamination of freshwater sources, and many others. This study is strategic to planners, researchers, and decision-makers/policy makers as it provides relevant, up-to-date, and accurate information for sustainable urban planning.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere27275
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2024


  • Bulawayo
  • Geospatial technology
  • Land cover changes
  • Landscape metrics
  • Support vector machine
  • Urban sprawl

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Multidisciplinary


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