Meredith Azevedo, MESc

2013 TRI Fellow

Spatial Linkages Between the Growth of Urban Centers and Major Global Cropping Areas: Historical Relationships and Contemporary Conditions

Although it is widely quoted that cities have grown in the most agriculturally productive lands, there is little empirical evidence that supports this idea. The aim of this study is to improve the scientific understanding of the historical relationship between urbanization and agriculture to determine if access to major agricultural lands is positively correlated with urban growth. Critically evaluating this historical relationship will provide insight into urbanization’s potential future impact on food production. Urbanization directly and indirectly affects global agriculture through the physical expansion of urban lands, changing the portfolio of foods consumed as a result of increases in income, and the creation of highly concentrated centers of food demand. Agricultural experts forecast that urbanization’s impact on food production will be significant because of the expected changes in diet associated with urbanization. However, the historical relationship between urban growth and agricultural lands is not yet well understood and has not been examined at global scales. The objectives of this study are to determine spatial correlations between 5,000 years of urban growth and major global cropping regions using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and spatial statistics tools. Specific research questions include: Is the growth of large urban areas correlated with major cropping area proximity? Is there a distinct shift in the relationship between the location and size of human settlements and their proximity to major cropping areas over time? When did these shifts occur and what do they tell us about potential future shifts?