Session 53: Urbanization, agricultural land loss and food security


Session Abstract

Urbanization has tremendously changed natural and human landscapes on this planet, and at the same time has profoundly influenced the structure and functioning of ecosystems. Land transformation is one of the most influential manifestations of these changes as agricultural lands, forests and grasslands are converted to urban land. Some nations in the global South are expected to lose up to half of their national crop yield value (Reitsma, Barthel, Burak and Seto-in review). Such losses are likely to increase dependencies on food imports for many countries and significantly add to the multiple stressors on the global food system as well as increase risks for detrimental teleconnections with rising urban demands for meat, dairy products, vegetable-oils and luxury foods (de Haen et al., 2003; Ruelli et al., 2013, Seto et al., 2012). There is also a need for continuing discussion on sustaining and even increasing agricultural productivity to guide future policy making and land management, considering the rapid urbanization in the developing world, especially in Asia and Africa.

Less studied is how urban expansion over proximate cultivated lands will impact the food security of urban inhabitants. Urban governments generally disregard food storage, proximate agricultural lands and local skills to produce food as obsolete (Pothukuchi and Kaufman, 2000; Barthel et al., 2013). Foodstuffs under normal conditions can be brought in from elsewhere, cheaply via the global food system (Porter et al., 2011; Fraser and Rimas, 2010). While such high global connectivity between cities and remote food supplies build resilience during medium-severe crises, sudden severances of supply lines may pose major threats to urban food security (Barthel et al., 2013; Newman et al., 2009).

The session highlighted case studies that model land-use changes in metropolitan landscapes with focus on spaces of food production; those that assess the long- and short-term values of agricultural space in historical metropolitan landscapes including peri-urban spaces; and studies that track the place of urban farming in metabolistic shifts and trends over the long-term in different energy regimes. 

Keywords: urbanization, agriculture, food security, ecosystems, land use



Stephan Barthel, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm, Sweden

Xiangzheng Deng, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China



Ying-Chieh Lee, Lee-Ming Institute of Technology, New Taipei City, Taiwan

Presentation Title: The effects of urbanization on the loss of ecosystem services of the agricultural landscape in Taiwan’s western coastal plain

Kazuaki Tsuchiya, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan

Presentation Title: Linking food and land systems: Opportunities and challenges for sustaining peri-urban agriculture across growing and shrinking cities

Xiangzheng Deng, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Presentation Title: Impacts of urbanization on agricultural land: A model-based analysis in China

Qian Zhang, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Presentation Title: Agricultural land loss and urbanization in China: Analysis from the perspective of land competition


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