Land Use: Agricultural land

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What does agricultural land include?

Agricultural land incorporates a variety of uses—crop production, grazing, pasture, and woodlands and wastelands (used for agricultural proposes). 


How does percent agricultural land affect environmental quality?

Over the past century forests have been razed for agricultural purposes to maintain food supplies for a growing population.  And in the latter half of this century plots of agricultural land have been converted into land for housing. 

It is necessary to monitor the percent agricultural land because in and of itself it represents a level of self-sufficiency of a community.  Also, since agricultural land is directly related to forest and urban land an increase or decrease in agriculture indicates likely decreases in forest or increases in urban land, respectively.   

  Environmentally, a loss of agriculture land to urban land, as is the current trend, indicates alteration of the hydrological cycle due to changes in runoff patterns and infiltration rates.  These changes represent increased risk to stream and river health, a loss of natural soil cycles, and a decrease in habitat.     

On the other side, increasing agricultural land tends to represent a decrease in forest cover, which affects biodiversity, greenhouse gases, and natural cycles.  But, unlike razing for development, razing for agricultural land means that the land will still contain vegetation cover, which indicates better soil and watershed health than urban land.


How does percent agricultural land affect sustainability?

There is not a target amount of agricultural land for a given community.  To qualify the land as good or bad the amount must be examined case by case in the context of the community.  However, as a general guideline a stable or increasing percentage of agricultural land indicates sustainability, except to the extend it interferes with other crucial development.   


How does agricultural land interconnect with other indicators?

            The percentage increase or decrease of agricultural land is correlated with  economic and population changes—population growth rate, business growth rate, residential growth rate, and the major income sources of a region.  It is also interconnected with the amount of imports.  Agricultural decline represents reliance on other regions for raw materials and food (i.e. more imports).       


Next step?

            Examine the database of percent agriculture land.  Then proceed to examine percent recreational land.    


% Agricultural Land Data


Author: Elisa Mayes