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Reducing the Loss of Agricultural Productivity due to Compact Urban Development in Municipalities of Switzerland

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Schwaab Jonas, Deb Kalyanmoy, Goodman Erik, Lautenbach Sven, van Strien Maarten, Grêt-Regamey Adrienne,
Project Towards a more sustainable management of soil resources by redistribution of economic and ecological added and reduced values
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Computers, Environment and Urban Systems
Volume (Issue) 65
Page(s) 162 - 177
Title of proceedings Computers, Environment and Urban Systems
DOI 10.1016/j.compenvurbsys.2017.06.005


Globally urban growth destroys fertile soils and endangers food security. Fertile soils are often located in the vicinity of existing urban areas. Thus, preserving high-quality soils can conflict with the objective of developing compact urban patterns. In this study, we assess the trade-off between compact urban patterns and urban patterns that can help reduce the loss of agricultural productivity by maintaining fertile agricultural soils. We assess the trade-offs for selected municipalities in Switzerland using a multi-objective evolutionary algorithm to create a front of non-dominated solutions. These results are used as a benchmark against which we compare simulations of a Business-As-Usual urban expansion in Switzerland to estimate the potential for reducing the loss of agricultural productivity. By analysing the front of non-dominated solutions, we show that there are areas of open land that can be converted into residential land without trading-off compactness against agricultural productivity. We show that there is a large potential for reducing the loss of agricultural productivity when optimizing the configuration of urban development. This potential strongly varies between municipalities and seems to depend primarily on the amount of demand for new urban land within each municipality. The proposed methodology of using multi-objective optimization, followed by a post-optimality analysis and including results from business-as-usual development can be used to support the decision-making processes in urban planning.