Growing cities eat up fertile land, but housing and food production can co-exist

On The Conversation, Lincoln University Senior Lecturer Dr Shannon Davis discusses an issue faced by cities all over the world: population growth and housing shortages mean urban expansion often encroaches on rural productive land.

Fertile soil is one of the reasons why many cites were originally set up in certain sites, but now the loss of these food-producing landscapes to urban growth is widely recognised as a concern to local food security.

The edges of cities – the ‘peri-urban’ zone – are critically important for urban resilience. Apart from food, they supply ecosystem services such as flood and stormwater mitigation, cooling and climate regulation, carbon storage, waste treatment and recreation.

It could be said that the conversion of peri-urban agricultural land for urban expansion unwittingly undermines the very life support on which city dwellers depend.

Urban resilience and food production

Peri-urban zones have an important role in supplying locally produced food. This helps reduce transport emissions to meet New Zealand’s emissions reduction targets. But there is a growing disconnect between where New Zealand’s food is produced and where the majority of New Zealanders live.

The dominant approach to urban growth is through greenfield development (building on undeveloped land), and this ultimately compromises the productive land belt around many cities and settlements. This can result in the irreversible loss of some of our most fertile soils.

Shannon Davis’s research explores opportunities arising from food production and housing co-existing within peri-urban zones, including the development of five land-use design concepts developed to address the peri-urban squeeze in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

Read the full article that explores the housing-agriculture conundrum at The Conversation here.

Source:  Lincoln University

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog