Regional change in the Algarve: A Geographic Information System approach

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The debate on sustainable development has led to an increasing interest covering the effects of the human beings on the natural environment. The development of information and communication technologies (ICT) allowed a better analysis of the drivers of environmental change. With the increase of ICT, especially related to monitoring of sustainable choices, methodologies for analysis of regional and local impact have made a significant contribution to the development of regional strategies at a policy level, but also contributed to the development of regional sciences. One of the main issues has been addressed by the analysis of carrying capacity and availability of scarce resources, resulting from a growing demand, leading to loss of vulnerable natural and historical areas. Much of the work of regional sciences has had a direct relation to space, due to the nature of socio-economic data. This thesis offers an integrated spatial assessment of the results of regional change brought by socio-economic growth. The Algarve region in Portugal is used as a laboratory to understand the current pressures and attempts to provide a framework for the future of socio-economic growth in the region and a systematic analysis of current pressures. While urban sprawl due to increasing tourist activity is an increasing concern, spatial analysis is used as an insightful tool for foresight of future change. Having considered that urban growth is a direct consequence of economic growth our research addresses the consequences of urban sprawl in the coastal region of the Algarve. By building up predictive tools for complex spatial system analysis, cellular automata are used to forecast future urban expansion in the region. The relationship of tourism to urban change is measured to assess what are true costs of tourism for the region. Tourism is then analysed within the duality of socio-economic pressures defining weak and strong sustainability. An integrated strategy considering the historical heritage of the Algarve is offered as a more interesting alternative to the current exploration of the marine environment. Thus, the dissertation expands on the usage of spatial analysis as tools to emphasize the importance of monitoring regional change in coastal environments from a socio-economic perspective. Geographic Information Systems are expressed as ubiquitous systems with unique properties to measure change and to offer relevant solutions for better decision making at local and regional level. An important asset of those tools in the context of information management is further explored in the capabilities of comparing results through spatial data manipulation and visualization of alternative futures for regional development.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • NOVA Information Management School (NOVA IMS)
  • Painho, Marco, Supervisor
  • Nijkamp, Peter, Supervisor, External person
Award date26 Sep 2011
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sep 2011


  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Regional Dynamics
  • Urban Sprawl
  • Tourism
  • Cellular Automata


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