Africa has the highest urbanisation rates, whereas Asia has the highest absolute growth of urban population. China alone will have to bear a quarter of total global cropland loss, amounting to nearly 80,000 square kilometres.

 “Hotspots of cropland loss tend to be river valleys and deltas, such as the Yangtze River Delta near Shanghai or the Pearl River Delta near Hong Kong. On a regional level, that food production loss cannot always be compensated for. This, in turn, could have an impact on the world food system,” says lead author Bren d’Amour. The study also shows that the land-use conflict between urbanisation and food production can differ markedly from one global region to the next. “A lot depends on the urbanisation dynamics of the individual countries. In India, for example, the urbanisation process is not as fast as in China and is smaller in overall scale. This is reflected in our results, which predict significantly lower cropland losses for India,” d’Amour explains.

For their research, the scientists used spatially explicit urban area expansion projections from Yale University, New Haven/USA.