BEIJING, Sept. 18 (Xinhuanet) -- In a Midwestern
county in the United States suburban parking spaces outnumber drivers by three
to one, a finding that reveals a trend nationwide that increases pollution and
urban heating, researchers say.
Digitalized aerial surveys taken
in 2005 were used to determine the total area devoted to parking lots
in Indiana's Tippecanoe County. The photos showed the paved lots covered an area
larger than 1,000 football fields and there were three times as many
parking spaces as drivers who lived in the county, said study leader Bryan
Pijanowski of Purdue University.
Pijanowski said his study was relevant
nationwide because generally Americans are paving an increasing amount of land
each year on which to park when they go to work, shopping, school or other
The results of the Tippecanoe study are cause for
concern because parking lots are a major source of water pollution, contributing
1,000 pounds of heavy metals into water runoff every year, he said.
"The problem with parking lots is that they
accumulate a lot of pollutants ¡ª oil, grease, heavy metals and sediment ¡ª that
cannot be absorbed by the impervious surface," said study member Bernard Engel.
"Rain then flushes these contaminants into rivers and lakes."
Because parking lots also prevent the rain from
soaking into the ground, they can worsen local flooding and erosion, Pijanowski
The paved surfaces also add to the urban heat island
effect, which can raise temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius by absorbing more
of the sun's rays than the surrounding ground, said Indiana state climatologist
Dev Niyogi, a colleague of Pijanowski at Purdue who did not work directly on
Pijanowski suggests that businesses such as "big box"
retailers and mega-churches could construct shared lots to help conserve
land and stave off some of the parking lots' negative effects.