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1 February 2001 Urban Expansion and the Loss of Prime Agricultural Lands in Puerto Rico
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In many countries where the economy has shifted from mainly agricultural to industrial, abandoned agricultural lands are lost to urbanization. For more than 4 centuries the Puerto Rican economy depended almost entirely on agriculture, but sociopolitical changes early in the 20th century resulted in a shift to industry. This shift in the economy, and an increase in population, has resulted in an increase in urban areas. This study describes the rate and distribution of urban growth on the island of Puerto Rico from 1977 to 1994 and the resulting influence on potential agricultural lands. Urban extent and growth were determined by interpreting aerial photographs and satellite imagery. The 1994 urban coverage was combined with a soil coverage based on agricultural potential to determine the distribution of urban areas relative to potential farmlands. Analyses showed that in 1977, 11.3% of Puerto Rico was classified as urban. After 17 years, urban areas had increased by 27.4% and urban growth on soils suitable for agriculture had increased by 41.6%. This represents a loss of 6% of potential agricultural lands. If this pattern of encroachment by urban growth into potential farmlands continues, Puerto Rico's potential for food production in the future could be greatly limited.
Tania del Mar López, T. Mitchell Aide and John R. Thomlinson "Urban Expansion and the Loss of Prime Agricultural Lands in Puerto Rico," AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 30(1), (1 February 2001).
Received: 26 October 1999; Accepted: 1 April 2000; Published: 1 February 2001

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