GIS applications in land management: the loss of high quality land to development in Central Mississippi from 1987-2002

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2005 Aug;2(2):234-44. doi: 10.3390/ijerph2005020006.


The socio-economic trends and history of Central Mississippi reveal a major rural influence based upon a dependence on agricultural activities as part of the economic engine driving the state's economy. Yet, in the last several years, the amount of agricultural land in the counties continues to decline. Similar changes in other variables associated with agricultural land use and the continuity of farming in the state have also been changing. Indeed, under the pressure of urban growth, some farmers are forced to use less productive soils or have abandoned the agricultural business. Considering the gravity of the problem and the implications for sustainable development, public concern has increased in the state of Mississippi that urbanization and other factors may be eroding potential farmland. Given the effects of the current trends on the future capacity to produce food items, there are concerns that the growing incidence of farmland loss may also erode the basis for sustainable use of agricultural land, biodiversity and protection of the state's ecological treasures. Notwithstanding the gravity of these trends, no major effort in the literature has aimed at documenting the incidence of agricultural land loss and the linkages to urbanization in the region of Central Mississippi. What changes have taken place in the size of agricultural land within the counties and what factors are responsible for it? This paper examines the issue of farmland loss in Central Mississippi with a focus at the county level between 1987 and 2002 from a temporal-spatial perspective. In terms of methodology, the paper uses a mixed scale approach based upon the existing literature. Data were drawn from the United States Census databases of Population and Agriculture. This information is analyzed with basic descriptive statistics and GIS with particular attention to the spatial trends at the county level. Results indicate that the counties under consideration have experienced considerable change in the amount of agricultural land and other variables associated with the use of farmland, due to urbanization. With the types of changes occurring, instituting effective policies anchored in sustainability, community participation, and growth management will go a long way in addressing the situation. Other strategies for farmland protection based upon land information inventory and mapping in the region, are also recommended. The paper stands as an update of the existing literature and offers a valuable tool for decision makers within the domain of natural resources management.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Decision Making
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Mississippi
  • Urbanization*