What is it about?

Urbanising arable land can have serious economic consequences as a result of the reduction in food production and loss of ecosystem services, according to recent research. The loss of 15 000 ha of productive soils during 2003-2008 on the Emilia-Romagna Plain in Italy cost approximately €19 million in carbon storage, €100 million in wheat production and €270 million in raw materials, the researchers estimate.

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Why is it important?

The analysis showed that around 15 000 ha of arable land were converted to urban areas between 2003 and 2008, leading to a loss of €100 million and a fall in wheat yields of 109 000 tonnes. The lost yield was equivalent to the daily calorie requirements of 425 000 people.


A previous analysis by the Italian Land Reclamation Syndicate found that the costs of hydrological works – such as canals to aid drainage and reduce flood risk – built to accommodate land-use changes on the Emilia Romagna Plain were around €1 billion. Finally, raw materials extracted from the soil in the area were worth around €270 million between 2003 and 2008. Furthermore, the researchers add that the study did not attempt to quantify some broader impacts, such as loss of biodiversity, health impacts or cultural losses (for instance through damage to archaeological sites).

Universita degli Studi di Palermo

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This page is a summary of: Soil is brown gold in the Emilia-Romagna region, Italy, Land Use Policy, July 2014, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2014.01.019.
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