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(Article Summarized by Meridian Institute) New research from Arizona State University and Google assesses the value of urban agriculture and quantifies its benefits at a global scale. The report, “A Global Geospatial Ecosystems Services Estimate of Urban Agriculture,” shows that urban agriculture has a significant environmental impact. “For the first time, we have a data-driven approach that quantifies the ecosystem benefits from urban agriculture,” said Matei Georgescu, an ASU associate professor of geographical sciences and urban planning. “Our estimates of ecosystem services show potential for millions of tons of food production, thousands of tons of nitrogen sequestration, billions of kilowatt hours of energy savings and billions of cubic meters of avoided storm runoff from agriculture in urban areas.” Overall, the researchers estimated that the annual value of these ecosystem services provided by existing vegetation in urban areas to be around $33 billion. With intense urban agriculture implementation, the researchers say, the overall annual worth of urban agriculture could be as much as $80 billion to $160 billion. “We’ve known there are benefits to having these small plots of land in our cities, but we found that the benefits extend well beyond having fresh food in the hands of those who will consume it,” added lead author Nicholas Clinton of Google. Countries with sufficient urban area and a national-scale mixture of crops that lends itself to urban cultivation will have the most incentives to encourage urban agriculture. “Relatively temperate, developed or developing countries with the right mix of crops are expected to have the greatest incentives for urban agriculture,” Clinton said. “These would include China, Japan, Germany and the U.S.”

Posted January 11th, 2018