ArticlePDF Available

Monitoring the Climate Change Impacts of Urban Agriculture in Rosario, Argentina

  • Universidad Tecnológica UTEC Uruguay

Abstract and Figures

As the world population in cities has surpassed that of rural areas, urban and periurban agriculture (UPA) can become an important strategy, not only to feed the people, but also to mitigate climate change. In the city of Rosario, Argentina, with the support of the RUAF Foundation and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), a detailed study is being conducted to monitor the urban heat island, reduction in the use of food transportation and preservation and in the impact of flooding by green infrastructure.
No caption available
No caption available
Content may be subject to copyright.
Urban Agriculture magazine number 27 March 2014
Monitoring the Climate Change
Impacts of Urban Agriculture in
Rosario, Argentina
Piacentini R.D., Bracalenti L., Salum G., Zimmerman
E., Lattuca A., Terrile R., Bartolomé S., Vega M.,
Tosello L., Di Leo N., Feldman S., Coronel A.,
As the world population in cities has surpassed
that of rural areas, urban and periurban agricul-
ture (UPA) can become an important strategy, not
only to feed the people, but also to mitigate climate
change. In the city of Rosario, Argentina, with the
support of the RUAF Foundation and the Climate
and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), a
detailed study is being conducted to monitor the
urban heat island, reduction in the use of food
transportation and preservation and in the impact
of flooding by green infrastructure.
The city’s urban agriculture programme
Municipal support to UPA in the city of Rosario, Argentina,
largely increased after the national crisis of 2001, when
unemployment hit a large number of working families. By
2013 there were 400 gardeners involved in the programme
(280 of them producing food for the market and 120 for
family consumption); 100 unemployed young people are
receiving job training on UPA; 4 garden parks and other
smaller public areas are devoted to vegetable production,
covering a total area of 22 hectares; and 3 urban agro-indus-
tries are producing processed vegetables and cosmetics
from medicinal plants. The total annual production is about
95 tons of vegetables and 5 tons of aromatic plants. The fresh
and processed products are sold by the gardeners on five
street markets in the city.
The Rosario Municipality has designated another 400 hect-
ares in and at the outskirts of the city for expansion of UPA
in the near future. Rosario’s main aims of the UPA programme
were to contribute to food security and income generation.
In 2013 the city expressed interest in also exploring the
potential contributions to climate change adaptation and
mitigation. Supported by RUAF and CDKN and international
research organisations such as WUR-PPO and the University
of Florida, local researchers were trained in impact monitor-
ing and scenario building. The preliminary results of the
research are described below.
Garden park in Rosario, Argentina Photo: Marielle Dubbeling
Urban Agriculture magazine number 27 March 2014
The contribution of green areas to reducing the
Urban Heat Island
Temperatures in cities are often higher than in the
surrounding area (this is called the urban heat island
effect). Consequently, cities are an interesting laboratory
for testing different options to decrease the warming intro-
duced by anthropogenic activities (building energy
consumption, transportation, services, etc.). One of these
options is to introduce green coverage, as this can signifi-
cantly reduce the surface temperature of otherwise bare
pavements and built-up spaces. The Rosario team moni-
tored the temperature behaviour of the pavement of a
central square in Rosario, with and without the incidence of
direct solar radiation, in the latter case due to a compact
Pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana). The measure-
ments were taken with a Minolta Land infrared thermom-
eter. The mean difference of temperatures with and with-
out direct solar radiation during the months of June–July
2013 (around the Southern Hemisphere winter solstice)
was 9.6 (± 2) °C, with the temperature in the plant shadow
being the lowest, as expected. This result demonstrates the
large influence a plant with perennial leaves can have in
reducing pavement (or building) surface temperature.
Reducing such temperatures by applying green coverage
may result in reduced energy use for cooling as well as it
will contribute to reducing ambient temperatures and
thus increasing human comfort levels. It must be pointed
out that this is a result for a particular plant, while we will
extend this study to other time periods and types of trees.
The team also installed temperature-humidity (HOBO)
sensors and data captors in different parts of the city, in
order to record the magnitude of the urban heat island in
different areas and the effect of urban agriculture (gardens
and urban trees) in mitigating temperature differences.
These instruments, which store temperature information
every 15 minutes, are located in tree garden parks (Molino
Blanco, Hogar Español, Facultad de Odontología) and at fixed
points in the city centre with or without tree cover (e.g. under
a tree or exposed to direct sun radiation).
The information recorded during the months of September
to October (Southern Hemisphere spring) show that
average temperatures in the urban gardens are lower than
in the central area, by 2.4 °C. This is particularly interesting
for the garden located near the Facultad de Odontología,
considering that it is located in a highly built-up area and is
surrounded by buildings of about 10 stories high.
In addition to the data-loggers, satellite data was used to get
a detailed description of the spatial distribution of a city and
its surroundings. In Figure 2 we present a multispectral
satellite image Landsat obtained on the 21
of June 2013.
Transportation and conservation of food
Food transport, storage and preservation involve significant
energy expenditure, which generally increases with trans-
port distance; use of fossil fuels, storage time and degree of
processing increases. Next to CO2 emissions, use of refrigera-
tion equipment also contributes to emissions of hydrochlo-
rofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and possibly chlorofluorocarbons
One possible indicator to measure such emissions is the
delay time that each product requires for transportation,
storage and conservation. This corresponds to the time inter-
val between harvest of the product in the place of produc-
tion and delivery to the consumer. Associated with this indi-
cator is the amount of CO2
equivalent (kg CO2 and the other
greenhouse gases) emitted by the whole process of storage
and preservation, according to the needs of each product.
Losses occurring during the process must be included by
incorporating a loss factor.
The use of various means of transportation for the transport
of foods from distant production centres to the city involves
different levels of energy consumption and associated CO2
emissions depending on the type of vehicle, condition, trans-
port distance, type of fuel used and required logistics infra-
structure. Transport systems that require cooling systems
have additional energy consumption and emission of other
highly polluting greenhouse gases (like HCFCs).
Landsat 8/NASA Multispectral Image. The blue band is the
Paraná river and the pink/ reddish colours correspond to the
islands of the Paraná delta. The periurban zone corresponds to
the areas with green color (cultivated area) and brown color
(non- cultivated areas).
Pink trumpet vine (with flowers) placed at the central Montenegro
square in Rosario
Photo: Rosario research team
Urban Agriculture magazine number 27 March 2014
A suitable indicator to measure the impact of food transpor-
tation is the number of food kilometres (or food miles) trav-
elled by each product to reach the city. In a more detailed
analysis the amount of CO2 equivalent emitted by the use
and maintenance of roads, warehouses and related services,
like traffic surveillance, should also be considered.
The distribution of food within Rosario can be separated into
a traditional retail circuit and an urban garden retail circuit.
This second distribution circuit ensures a very short time
between harvest of food and its destination (the consumers),
while maintaining a high level of quality and freshness with-
out refrigeration and conservation.
For our research on the reduction of food miles we consid-
ered three products: the first two are squash (including
pumpkin) and string beans, as they are currently produced
in the urban gardens and their production can easily be
increased. The third product is potato, the main vegetable
consumed by the Rosario population. Even if potato is not
produced in the intra-urban gardens, a significant reduction
in CO2 emissions can be achieved if the supply is sourced
from the periurban region and areas near the city with high
horticultural production.
Food transports in Rosario Photo: Marielle Dubbeling
A significant proportion of the potatoes consumed in Rosario
city is currently produced in the Provinces of Mendoza and
Buenos Aires, with a mean distance of about 1000 km from
Rosario. They are moved by truck, usually with a capacity of
20 tons and around 10 % losses. Such transport represents a
fuel consumption of 0.31 litres of fossil fuels per km and a
CO2 output of 3005 ton for each round trip. If this food were
to be produced in the area around Rosario (in the Arroyo Seco
region located at about 30 km), CO2 emissions related to
food transports would be reduced by 97 % per year. Similarly
for the squash/pumpkin, which are imported from Ceres
region about 200 km from Rosario and for the string beans,
produced mainly in the horticultural area of Great Buenos
Aires (about 300 km from Rosario), there would be a reduc-
tion of 92.5 % per year for squash/pumpkin and 95 % CO2 per
year for string beans.
A similar analysis carried out for the other vegetables
consumed in Rosario and other cities in the country would
yield a significant contribution of UPA to reduce food miles
and GHG emissions. Of course, the potential of food growing
in and around cities has to be analysed and production
methods and yield per area should also be included in such
an analysis.
Monitoring the Climate Change Impacts of Urban Agriculture in Rosario, Argentina
Urban Agriculture magazine number 27 March 2014
Effects of UPA on run-off and infiltration of
storm water
There are positive effects produced by the increase of green
areas in urban spaces, such as agriculture, forestry and green
roofs on rainfall infiltration and storage capacity. This
contributes to reducing storm water run-off and can offer an
alternative to substantial hardware improvements in urban
drainage systems and infrastructure that are generally diffi-
cult and expensive.
The team introduced a simple method to estimate run-off,
based on a rational equation. The indicator used is the varia-
tion of the run-off coefficient as function of the increase in
green areas. The method we propose is based on the calcula-
tion of the change of the run-off coefficient, relative to the
increase or decrease in UPA surfaces. Different future land
use scenarios were developed, considering the current poli-
cies and land use ordinances, the building patterns in the
city, the area of non-built up land available, etc.
The run-off coefficient is a ratio that indicates the amount of
run-off generated by a watershed, given an average intensity
of storm precipitation. The run-off coefficient varies with
slope, surface condition, vegetation cover and hydrological
soil type. Surfaces that are relatively impervious, like streets
and parking lots, have run-off coefficients approaching one.
Surfaces with vegetation that intercept surface run-off and
those that allow infiltration of rainfall have lower run-off
coefficients (near to 0). All other factors being equal, an area
with a greater slope will have more storm water run-off and
thus a higher run-off coefficient than an area with a lower
slope. Soils that have a high clay content do not allow much
infiltration and thus have relatively high run-off coefficients,
while soils with high sand content have higher infiltration
rates and low run-off coefficients.
Negative values for the variation in run-off (between a hypo-
thetical scenario and the actual situation) at any time period
will indicate a net decrease in run-off (which corresponds to
the reduction of risk of floods) and an increase in infiltration/
Brown, M E y Funk C C, Food Security Under Climate Change Vol
319, 580-581, 2008 (available at
IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)/SRRES (Special
report on Renewable sources). Renewable energy sources and
Climate change mitigation (
IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Working Group
1: The physical science basis, 2007 (available at:
IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Working Group
1: The physical science basis, 2013 (available at:
NEF (National Energy Foundation), UK (
storage of the storm water within a given surface area. It can
be demonstrated that small increases of green areas in
urban systems reduce significantly the risk of flooding. For
example, from historical rainfall data for the city of Rosario,
a 5 %reduction in the run-off coefficient would cause a prob-
ability reduction of 30 % for urban flood risks.
Policy review
Based on these first results a policy proposal on UPA inclu-
sion in watershed management was presented to the
Municipality of Rosario for review. Such policy calls for
increasing the area of green roofs on new and existing build-
ings; integrating UPA in public squares, walks, sides of motor-
ways and railways; and reducing the risk of flooding and
waterlogging caused by paving and building in flooded
areas through UPA strategies, by means of land use ordi-
More detailed results of the present project will be published
once they become available (later in 2014).
Piacentini R.D.
IFIR, CONICET-National University of Rosario UNR
Bracalenti L. and Salum G.
Zimmerman E.
Lattuca A., Terrile R., Bartolomé S., Vega M., Tosello L.
Municipality of Rosario
Di Leo N., Feldman S., Coronel A.
Email corresponding author:
A food flow analysis carried
out for vegetables consumed
in Rosario demonstrates
that UPA can significantly
contribute to reduce food
miles and related GHG
... Greater amount of impervious surface cover surrounding and within urban gardens increases mean and maximum temperatures , probably because impervious surfaces retain heat due to low albedo (Oke, 1973). In contrast, greater plant ground cover and higher tree density is associated with cooler temperatures and climate mitigation within urban green spaces (Bowler et al., 2010;Gill et al., 2007;Huang et al., 2008;Shashua-bar et al., 2009) including within urban gardens (Piacentini et al., 2014). Local temperatures likely affect the degree to which plants are stressed in this managed environment (Eriksen-Hamel and Danso, 2010), due to effects of temperature on soil moisture retention (Craul, 1992;Pickett et al., 2011). ...
... This period is generally when water availability is most limited and temperatures are highest, which are two factors that are associated with high evapotranspiration and stressful conditions for plants in urban environments and warrants targeted research (Faeth et al., 2005). The sample period duration is comparable to other temperature studies in urban agroecosystems Piacentini et al., 2014), and was limited by garden access. We worked with garden managers to identify four volunteer gardeners' plots that were spatially distributed within the garden in which to monitor temperature and collect additional plot scale vegetation data. ...
... From an urban sustainability and urban planning viewpoint, as cities like Melbourne densify in structures to meet population growth, urban gardens should be better incorporated into the built fabric of cities through environmental and social reform efforts. Urban gardening can support crop diversity to improve food security, and could have climate mitigation potential in the city (Lovell, 2010;Piacentini et al., 2014). In conclusion, urban gardens are diverse agroecosystems that are shaped by individual gardener management and as well as by landscape-scale environmental factors, and this can likely affect resource use in the city. ...
Urban environments are being subject to increasing temperatures due to the combined effects of global climate change and urban heat. These increased temperatures, coupled with human planting preferences and green space management practices, influence how urban plants grow and survive. Urban community gardens are an increasingly popular land use, and a green space type that is influenced by unique climate-human behavior interactions. Despite ongoing rapid temperature changes in cities, it is unknown how gardeners are adapting to these changes, and to what extent changes influence planting decisions and patterns of urban plant diversity. In this study, we monitored the variation in daily air temperatures and measured plant species richness at the garden and garden plot scale in 11 community gardens in Melbourne, Australia. We surveyed >180 gardeners to better understand the relationships between temperature variation, garden plant species diversity, and gardener management practices. We found that garden scale temperature variability is driven by regional context, and temperatures are more stable in landscapes with higher impervious surface cover. Gardeners agreed that climatic/temperature changes are influencing their watering behavior, but not their plant selection. Instead plant selection is being driven by desired food production. Yet, when comparing two bioregions, temperature did have a measurable relationship with garden plant composition in the region with more temperature variation. Temperature variability negatively related to plant species richness within garden plots, providing evidence that plant survival is related to climate at this scale in such regions. Although gardeners may be able to water more in response to regional climate changes, gardeners are unlikely to be able to completely control the effects of temperature on plant survival in more variable conditions. This suggests the inner city with more stable temperatures (albeit potentially hotter for longer due to heat island) may accommodate more species diverse gardens.
... The Urban Agriculture Program of Rosario was established in response to the 2002 economic crisis [70] with the aim to contribute to the food security and income generation of the urban poor [93]. The municipality along with several NGOs had developed the program originally to support 20 groups of gardeners but was overwhelmed by the amount of people in need of support, resulting in the program supporting more than 800 farming groups [94]. ...
... International Global South case study 1: urban agriculture program-Rosario, Argentina[70,78,86,[93][94][95][97][98][99][100]. ...
Full-text available
Food and nutrition security has been neglected in the planning field for reasons of a lack of connection between food and planning and the perception that agricultural activities have no place in the modernizing world. However, considering increasing climate change impacts and implications on industrialized agriculture, there is a clear need to establish shorter, more sustainable agricultural production practices and food supply chains. Urban agriculture is proposed as a potential method of intervention for planners to support sustainable food production and supply chains. The paper utilized a multiple-case study design to analyze four best practice examples of urban agriculture in the Global South to uncover its potential to address food security associated risks and contribute to sustainable development objectives. The results delivered evidence of the potential to harness the multifunctionality of urban agriculture to not only improve the food security of the most at-risk populations, but to also address other urban risks such as unemployment, community decline and food deserts. The recommendations for this paper relate to establishing a food security department, mapping and encouraging more sustainable food supply chains, creating land uses and zonings specific to urban agriculture and to utilize its multifunctionality to address other urban risks.
Full-text available
Connectivity of social-ecological systems promotes resilience across urban landscapes. Community gardens are social-ecological systems that support food production, social interactions, and biodiversity conservation. We investigate how these hubs of ecosystem services facilitate socio-ecological connectivity and service flows as a network across complex urban landscapes. In three US cities (Baltimore, Chicago, New York City), we use community garden networks as a model system to demonstrate how biophysical and social features of urban landscapes control the pattern and magnitude of ecosystem service flows through these systems. We show that community gardens within a city are connected through biological and social mechanisms, and connectivity levels and spatial arrangement differ across cities. We found that biophysical connectivity was higher than social connectivity in one case study, while they were nearly equal in the other two. This higher social connectivity can be attributed to clustered distributions of gardens within neighborhoods (network modularity), which promotes neighborhood-scale connectivity hotspots, but produces landscape-scale connectivity coldspots. The particular patterns illustrate how urban form and social amenities largely shape ecosystem service flows among garden networks. Such socio-ecological analyses can be applied to enhance and stabilize landscape connectedness to improve life and resilience in cities.
Some of the most profound and direct impacts of climate change over the next few decades will be on agricultural and food systems. On page 607 of this issue, Lobell et al. (1) show that increasing temperatures and declining precipitation over semiarid regions are likely to reduce yields for corn, wheat, rice, and other primary crops in the next two decades. These changes could have a substantial impact on global food security. Since the 1990s, rising commodity prices and declining per capita cultivated area have led to decreases in food production, eroding food security in many communities (2). Many regions that lack food security rely on local agricultural production to meet their food needs. Primarily tropical and subtropical, these regions are substantially affected by both global climate variations and global commodity price fluctuations. Warming in the Indian Ocean (3) and an increasingly “El Nino–like” climate (4) could reduce main-season precipitation across parts of the Americas, Africa, and Asia (see the figure). In food-insecure regions, many farmers both consume their product and sell it in local markets. This exposes farmers to climate variations, because when they produce less their income goes down while their costs go up to maintain basic consumption. Large-scale hunger can ensue, even when there is sufficient food in the market that has been imported from elsewhere. National revenue can also be affected by large-scale droughts, which restrict the ability of countries with small budgets to purchase grain on the international market. Thus, recent large increases in grain prices reduce access to food for the poor, for example, in Tanzania, who compete for corn with ethanol producers and hog farmers in the United States. Finally, up to half of all malnutrition is driven by nonfood factors through diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria; the latter disease is likely to become more severe and widespread with warming temperatures. Lobell et al. use crop models to calculate changes in agricultural production to 2030. The results show that climate change is likely to reduce agricultural production, thus reducing food availability. Identifying the impact of this reduced production will, however, be complicated by other changes. The latter include rising oil prices, the globalization of the grain market, and a structural change in demand for key food supplies due to increasing demand for biofuels and rising per-capita consumption in India and China. These changes have pushed up supply costs for staple foods by 40% or more in many food-insecure areas. Decoupling these effects to implement mitigation and adaptation programs will be difficult. Climate change impacts on farmers will vary by region, depending on their use of technology. Technological sophistication determines a farm’s productivity far more than its climatic and agricultural endowments. Food insecurity, therefore, is not solely a product of “climatic determinism” and can be addressed by improvements in economic, political, and agricultural policies at local and global scales. In currently food-insecure regions, farming is typically conducted manually, using a hoe and planting stick with few inputs. The difference between the productivity of these farms and those using petroleum-based fertilizer and pesticides, biotechnology-enhanced plant varieties, and mechanization is extreme (5). Not only will climate change have a differential effect on ecosystems in the tropics due to their already warmer climates, but also poor farmers in the tropics will be less able to cope with changes in climate because they have far fewer options in their agricultural system to begin with. These handicaps can be exacerbated by macro-economic policies that create disincentives for agricultural development, such as agricultural subsidies in the United States and Europe and poorly implemented cash transfer programs (6).
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Working Group 1: The physical science basis
IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Working Group 1: The physical science basis, 2007 (available at:
  • M E Brown
  • C Funk
Brown, M E y Funk C C, Food Security Under Climate Change Vol 319, 580-581, 2008 (available at nasapub/131).