UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Widely accepted myths that urbanization negatively impacts food and land use biodiversity are incorrect, according to a team of researchers who developed a framework for evaluating this intersection. Their results could also affect nutrition and food insecurity in urban areas.
More than 50% of humanity currently lives in urban areas and by 2050 this will grow to 68%. Growing urbanization drives changes in climate, land use, biodiversity and the human diet, according to the researchers.
"We can't simply assume that urbanization exclusively, negatively impacts food biodiversity," said Karl S. Zimmerer, E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller Professor of Environment and Society Geography, Penn State, who directs the GeoSyntheSES Lab.
The framework, which was published today (Nov. 19) in One Earth, looks at the intersection of urbanization and agrobiodiversity — biodiversity in food production and consumption as well as agricultural ecosystems — in four different areas: land use; supply chains; food access and foodways; and urban infrastructure and food retail.
Looking at urban and peri-urban land use, there are a wide variety of approaches that help food and nutritional biodiversity. On a city's fringe, crop land, orchards and dairy farms can supply a range of products.
According to the researchers some U.S. metropolitan areas could become locally self-sufficient in eggs and milk, but only 12% and 16% in fruits and vegetables, respectively. However, in Hanoi, Viet Nam, urban and peri-urban agriculture provides 62% to 83% of vegetables and significant levels of pork and fish. Within a city, and peri-urban area gardens and farms of all sizes, whether they are public or private, roof top or pocket, add to the diversity of food available to residents.