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Being efficient and green by rethinking the urban-rural divide—Combining urban expansion and food production by integrating an ecosystem service perspective into urban planning

Gren, Å. and E. Andersson. 2018. Sustainable Cities and Society 40:75–82


A pressing issue for mankind is how to combine urban expansion and food production for present and future generations. Using a case study example –the Stockholm County in Sweden- we illustrate how incorporating an ecosystem service perspective into urban planning may help us rethink the urban-rural divide in order to facilitate a sustainable development of the urban agricultural landscape of Stockholm. In our case study we show that semi-natural pollinator habitats will be 12 times as affected by the planned urban expansion than farmland. Hence, the fate and management of semi-natural pollinator habitats need to be prioritized at least as much as saving productive areas for farming in the urban expansion process. We also show that urban green areas, through their potential to act as semi-natural habitats, provide a tangible link between the pollination service and the urban planning process, contributing to a better grounding of the urban expansion in an ecosystem service reality. Also, acknowledging that land use types typically classified as “urban”, such as urban green areas, can ecologically support many “rural” ecosystem services, like pollination and food production, contributes to overcoming the, often unconstructive, urban-rural divide. We conclude that beneath the apparent direct trade-offs between finding suitable land for urban expansion and preserving land for food production, there is potential for compromises, opportunities and synergies.

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Keywords: Sustainable urban planning, Urban food production, Pollination potential, Urban-rural divide, Ecosystem services

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