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Future Megacities Will Swallow Up Croplands by 2030

A new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has predicted that the creeping expanse of megacities around the world will begin to encroach on existing farmlands by the year 2030. It’s no secret that, as populations grow and people are increasingly flocking to live in urban areas, those cities will need to grow in order to accommodate new inhabitants. In fact, the U.N. projects that urban populations will double by 2050.

Physical expansion is the only option. That spread, however, threatens the “60% of the world’s cropland which lies on the outskirts of cities — and that’s particularly worrying, the report authors say, because this peripheral habitat is, on average, also twice as productive as land elsewhere on the globe.”

Furthermore, the study predicts that global agricultural production will take a 3 or 4 percent hit due to urban growth. Numbers like that may seem inconsequential — and for certain areas, like the United States, that may be the case. But these hits to agriculture will disproportionately affect developing areas in Africa and Asia, with 80 percent of the projected losses. China alone will account for about 25 percent, with the losses concentrated in its eastern regions.

Naveen Roy

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