Lisbon’s womb: an approach to the city metabolism in the turn to the twentieth century

Abstract

The consumption and production of food products in the municipality of Lisbon in the 1890–1900 decade is assessed with the support of historical cartography and statistical resources. For the first time, food production in a municipality in the turn to the twentieth century is accounted and simultaneously subject of a visual analysis of the land used for agriculture and of the water infrastructures that supported such uses. Agriculture occupied at least 40 % of the territory of the city, while the built environment occupied no more than 16 % of the territory. However, local production of food was far from supplying most of the citizens’ needs, and substantial food imports were needed. In this context, the municipality behaved like a heterotrophic system, highly dependent on the external supply of resources. Moreover, comparing to other European cities at the time Lisbon was facing in the end of the nineteenth century a late and slow transition from an agrarian social metabolism to an industrial one, suggesting that Lisbon was still relatively high-solar-powered as compared to other European cities at the time that were already highly fossil-fuel-powered.

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Acknowledgments

Authors acknowledge the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (FCT) for its financial support in the aim of project MEMO—Evolution of the Lisbon metropolitan area metabolism. Lessons toward a Sustainable Urban Future (PTDC/EMS-ENE/2197/2012). The authors are also thankful to Direção Geral do Território for allowing the reproduction of cartographic material included in this paper, Nuno Gomes for its help in geo-referencing CEM charts and Sabine Barles for her valuable help in the launching of the work that resulted in this paper. Finally, we are grateful to both the reviewers for their comprehensive review as well as their highly constructive and valuable comments.

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Correspondence to Samuel Niza.

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Editor: Helmut Haberl.

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Niza, S., Ferreira, D., Mourão, J. et al. Lisbon’s womb: an approach to the city metabolism in the turn to the twentieth century. Reg Environ Change 16, 1725–1737 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-015-0918-7

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Keywords

  • Environmental history
  • Urban metabolism
  • Urban agriculture
  • Nitrogen
  • Water