Collaborative research to support urban agriculture in the face of change: The case of the Sumida watercress farm on O‘ahu

As urban areas expand around the world, there are growing efforts to restore and protect natural and agricultural systems for the multitude of ecosystem services they provide to urban communities. This study presents a researcher-farmer collaboration in a highly urbanized area of Oʻahu focused on understanding the historical and current challenges and opportunities faced by a culturally and socially valued spring-dependent urban farm, Sumida Farm, which produces the majority of the state of Hawaiʻi’s watercress. We conducted a long-term trend analysis (25 years) of factors identified by the farmers to be important historical drivers of crop yield, including groundwater pumping, pest outbreaks, temperature, Oceanic Niño Index, and precipitation. We combined this analysis with a year of intensive spring water sampling on the farm to evaluate nutrient and contaminant composition and flow to understand water-related stressors, as well as evaluate the potential of the farm to provide nutrient retention services.

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