Environmental Accounting for Changes in Farm Land Use: A Canadian Case Study

Author: Merem, Edmund C.
This study examines the changing area of agricultural land through regional environmental accounting in the Ottawa South Central Region of Eastern Ontario Canada from 1981 to 1996. In the field of environmental accounting, increasing attention has been paid to the national approach, with less research at the regional level. A national approach may show a country to have a large quantity of natural resources, including agricultural land areas, at a given period of time, yet not explore the nature and extent of change in the same resources in small areas at the regional level. This study proposes a regional model based upon census data analysis to illustrate the process and level of change in agricultural land area, and the model is then applied at Six Census SubDivisions in the Ottawa region. The study found that over the 15-year period there were significant changes in the area of agricultural land, in the form of a decline in the entire study area as a result of socio-economic factors, and that this in turn enhances regional expertise for researchers, planners and resource managers in the design of strategies and monitoring tools for gauging the temporal-spatial evolution of natural resources, including areas of farmland.


“The preservation and protection of agricultural lands has become a major public policy initiative in North America. This is especially so in Canada where the concern for farm land preservation has become a focus of public policy and advocacy for groups committed to preservation. Challenged by the availability and extraction of natural resources, Canada is confronted with conflicting economic development and preservation demands … Dr. Merem offers a fresh look into the ecological, political and economic issues involved in Canadian natural resource accounting … Employing regional model to access the consequences of changes in the study area, the author investigated thirty variables and indicators to support his findings ... A major strength of the book is its focus upon the regional level. In the past, environmental accounting studies have looked at the national context. As a consequence, national level studies failed to adequately provide an accurate picture of regional trend ... A second strong feature of the book lies in its identification and use of spatial models that permit a thorough investigation of changes in agricultural land areas ... Lastly, the book caps its research findings with thoughtful interpretations and recommendations for decision making and further research. Although these findings and recommendations are specific to the Ottawa, Canada area, they are clearly useful to other regional areas. The book will prove useful to a diverse audience: policy makers, researchers and students, and environmental advocates will discover that the book is useful in their efforts to address the problems associated with natural resource accounting.” - (From the Commendatory Preface) Dr. William M. Harris, Chair, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Jackson State University

“This research represents a valuable piece of scientific work in the important area of environmental assessment and management ... The author’s pioneering research has not only contributed to the identification and assessment of valued environmental components that are critical to characterize environmental and associated economic values changes in the study area, but most importantly to the development of a conceptual model that can be applied to other regions to predict changes in relation to selected environmental attributes. This is a well-written document of environmental and community-based investigation that integrates novel statistical methods with modern geographical information systems analysis to provide a comprehensive analysis of environmental changes and the potential economic impacts in the affected areas.” – Paul Tchounwou, ScD, Professor and Director Environmental Science Ph.D. Program, Jackson State University

“This work is an important addition to the literature in the field of environmental accounting … The work is well written, extensive in its use of data, and comprehensive in its scope. In particular, it’s important to have robust, relevant data to help value regionally based agriculture and natural lands ... These additional methods for accounting for the value of land can help currently employed tools evolve into more efficient, comprehensive tools that include that natural, agricultural, and terrestrial value.” – Matthew Dalbey, Ph.D., United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.

Table of Contents

Preface by Dr. William M. Harris
1. Literature Review on Environmental Accounting
2. Conceptual Perspectives and Regional Framework
3. The Study Area: The Ottawa South Central Region
4. Research Design and Methodology
5. Results of Descriptive Statistics
6. The Results of Principal Components Analysis (PCA)
7. Results of the Survey of Farmers
8. Interpretation of Census and Survey Results
9. Contributions of the Research to Environmental Accounting System
10. Discussions and Conclusions