Researchers at NC State University and the U.S. Geological Survey predict that urban areas in the south will double in size by 2060. If the rate and style of urban sprawl continues, farm and forest land will give way to a "megalopolis" that stretches from Raleigh to Atlanta.
USGS Research Ecologist Adam Terando says the pattern of decentralized development (meaning houses with yards and on cul-de-sacs as well as roadside business centers) will mean cutting further into wildlife habitats.
"You can expect more conflicts between people and wildlife," Terando said. "It could also mean that a lot of these critters aren't able to thrive like they need to because a lot of them don't have the space that they need."
Many insects would thrive however, because temperatures would continue to rise in the region, making it amenable to bugs, especially the ones that kill trees. Water quality would also suffer from increased pollution runoff.
Terando says the model could change if developers centralize and build upward instead of outward, leaving more natural land untouched.