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Ongoing Literature Search


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Biodiversity, Urban Areas, and Agriculture: Locating Priority Ecoregions for Conservation


Ecology and Society Volume 8 Number 2 (2003)


Taylor Ricketts, World Wildlife Fund

Marc Imhoff, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center




Urbanization and agriculture are two of the most important threats to biodiversity worldwide. The intensities of these land-use phenomena, however, as well as levels of biodiversity itself, differ widely among regions. Thus, there is a need to develop a quick but rigorous method of identifying where high levels of human threats and biodiversity coincide. These areas are clear priorities for biodiversity conservation. In this study, we combine distribution data for eight major plant and animal taxa (comprising over 20,000 species) with remotely sensed measures of urban and agricultural land use to assess conservation priorities among 76 terrestrial ecoregions in North America. We combine the species data into overall indices of richness and endemism. We then plot each of these indices against the percent cover of urban and agricultural land in each ecoregion, resulting in four separate comparisons. For each comparison, ecoregions that fall above the 66th quantile on both axes are identified as priorities for conservation. These analyses yield four “priority sets” of 6–16 ecoregions (8–21% of the total number) where high levels of biodiversity and human land use coincide. These ecoregions tend to be concentrated in the southeastern United States, California, and, to a lesser extent, the Atlantic coast, southern Texas, and the U.S. Midwest. Importantly, several ecoregions are members of more than one priority set and two ecoregions are members of all four sets. Across all 76 ecoregions, urban cover is positively correlated with both species richness and endemism. Conservation efforts in densely populated areas therefore may be equally important (if not more so) as preserving remote parks in relatively pristine regions.

Key words

North America, agriculture, biodiversity, conservation, conservation priorities, ecoregions, endemism, human land use, species richness, threats to biodiversity, urbanization


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Urban-rural influences in U.S. environmental and economic development policy


Journal of Rural Studies Volume 12 Number 4 (1996) 387-397


Richard H. Foster and Mark K. McBeth

Department of Political Science, Campus Box 8073, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID 83209, U.S.A.



Despite the fact that rural communities have the most to gain and lose in matters involving economic development and environmental preservation, they often are given the least voice in the political processes that create policies in these areas. Agendas are set, policies formulated and implemented by policy-makers, administrators, and practitioners in urban areas. These outside policies may not be consistent with how rural communities view the tradeoffs between the environment and the economy. We call for decentralization of economic and environmental policy. It is understood, however, that such an approach may involve risk. What if rural-based policy-makers and practitioners are, for instance, aggressively antienvironmental and pro-economic growth? Using results from a national sample of rural development officials, this study examines the environmental and economic development attitudes of development officials based on a population continuum. The findings suggest that rural-based development officials often have a greater appreciation of rural environmental quality of life features compared to their urban counterparts. The implications of the findings are detailed and suggestions for future research are provided.


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Report to the National Farmers' Union, 1999


Heffernan, William D.


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Placing the food system on the urban agenda: The role of municipal institutions in food systems planning


Agriculture and Human Values Volume 16 Number 2 (1999) 213-224


Kameshwari Pothukuchi1 and Jerome L. Kaufman1

(1) Department of Geography and Urban Planning, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, 48202



Food issues are generally regarded as agricultural and rural issues. The urban food system is less visible than such other systems as transportation, housing, employment, or even the environment. The reasons for its low visibility include the historic process by which issues and policies came to be defined as urban; the spread of processing, refrigeration, and transportation technology together with cheap, abundant energy that rendered invisible the loss of farmland around older cities; and the continuing institutional separation of urban and rural policy. Despite its low visibility, the urban food system nonetheless contributes significantly to community health and welfare; to metropolitan economies; connects to other urban systems such as housing, transportation, land use, and economic development; and impacts the urban environment. We examine existing or potential city institutions that could offer a more comprehensive look at the urban food system. These include the city department of food, the food policy council, and the city-planning department.


Food systems - Municipal policy - Urban planning


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Estimating Amenity Values of Urban Fringe Farmland: A Contingent Valuation Approach: Note


Growth and Change, Volume 17 (Fall 1986) 70-78


Beasley, Steven D., William G. Workman, Nancy A. Williams



Reports on an attempt to value quality-of-environment benefits of farmland in an agricultural region of south central Alaska. Conceptual framework for the valuation of collective goods such as open space and historical values; Empirical model; Benefit estimates associated with avoiding high development; Net present value of the development rights purchase investmen


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Farmland Preservation and Ecological Footprints: A Critique


Planning and Markets Volume 1 Number 1 (1998)



Peter Gordon


School of Policy, Planning, and Development and

Department of Economics


Harry W. Richardson


School of Policy, Planning, and Development and

Department of Economics

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA 90089-0626




The paper analyzes two issues: the case against farmland preservation and the ecological footprint concept. With respect to the first, emphasis is placed on improving agricultural productivity, "highest and best use" land allocations, the reversibility of land uses in response to market conditions, the shift to more land-intensive crops, the environmental costs of agriculture, the comparative external economies and job creation impacts of urban vs. rural development, and the influence of private ownership on land stewardship. In addition, the world food problem is much more a distributional than an aggregate supply issue. The ecological footprint concept extends the land use per capita indicator both spatially (to cover the globe) and functionally (the land requirements to maintain all types of consumption). Global aggregates imply that land area requirements are greater than the world's available land, suggesting that current consumption patterns are "unsustainable." However, this idea is based upon severely limiting assumptions: no substitution of other factors of production for land; low rates of technological change; small countries with large populations are inherently bad; urban residents consume more natural resources than rural residents; gains from trade are negligible and/or undesirable; and price signals have little value.



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Development at the Urban Fringe and Beyond: Impacts on Agriculture and Rural Land


US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 2001


Heimlich, Ralph E. and William D. Anderson



Land development in the United States is following two routes: expansion of urban areas and large-lot development (greater than 1 acre per house) in rural areas. Urban expansion claimed more than 1 million acres per year between 1960 and 1990, yet is not seen as a threat to most farming, although it may reduce production of some high-value or specialty crops. The consequences of continued large-lot development may be less sanguine, since it consumes much more land per unit of housing than the typical suburb. Controlling growth and planning for it are the domains of State and local governments. The Federal Government may be able to help them in such areas as building capacity to plan and control growth, providing financial incentives for channeling growth in desirable directions, or coordinating local, regional and State efforts.


Key words: land development, sprawl, large-lot housing, land zoning, population growth, housing, specialty agriculture, high value agriculture, rural amenities, smart growth


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Farmland preservation, development rights and the theory of the growth machine: the views of planners *


Journal of Rural Studies, Volume 10 Number 3 (1994) 233-248


Max J. Pfeffer and Mark B. Lapping†, 1


1 Department of Rural Sociology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, U.S.A.

† University of Southern Maine, Portland, ME, U.S.A.




We examine the effectiveness of farmland preservation measures in challenging efforts to convert agricultural land to nonfarm uses in rural/urban fringe areas. Our focus is on programs based on the exchange of development rights in the northeastern United States. We employ theoretical constructs from Logan and Molotch's theory of the urban growth machine. They argue that the commodification of land associated with urbanization is the most important source of wealth and power for land-based elites. Yet, the activities of these elites are sometimes challenged with growth control measures like farmland preservation. To evaluate the effectiveness of these programs to defend farm land-use over purely commercial land exchange for speculative gain, we draw on data from focus group discussions and a survey of planners in metropolitan areas of the region. Our analysis also considers the limitations of such programs in the context of the absence of regional land-use planning. We find that farmland preservation programs based on the exchange of development rights do challenge some aspects of urban growth, but are also the result of those same development dynamics. Thus, they reflect certain class biases associated with the development of rural/urban fringe areas. However, we conclude that these programs could become more effective farmland protection tools with the implementation of comprehensive land-use planning.


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Is Farmland Preservation a Community Investment?


American Farmland Trust (1997)


Freedgood, Julia



This document explains how to conduct a Cost of Community Services Study. These studies reorganize financial data at the local level to show the demand for services by different land uses. COCS studies suggest it is time to start appreciating farm and forest lands for their contribution to the local tax base. Their revenues may be modest, but so are their demand for services. While adding to the tax base, farm and forest lands also provide wildlife habitat, protect wetlands and floodplains, provide tourist and recreational opportunities, contribute to quality of life, create jobs and supply secondary markets.


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