The loss of farmland to urban use in peri-urban areas is a global phenomenon. Urban sprawl generates a decline in the availability of productive agricultural land around cities, causing versatile conflicts between nature and society and threatening the sustainability of urban agglomerations. This study aimed to uncover the spatial pattern of long-term (80 years) land cover changes in the functional urban area of Budapest, with special attention to the conversion of agricultural land. The paper is based on a unique methodology utilizing various data sources such as military-surveyed topographic maps from the 1950s, the CLC 90 from 1990, and the Urban Atlas from 2012. In addition, the multilayer perceptron (MLP) method was used to model land cover changes through 2040. The research findings showed that land conversion and the shrinkage of productive agricultural land around Budapest significantly intensified after the collapse of communism. The conversion of arable land to artificial surfaces increased, and by now, the traditional metropolitan food supply area around Budapest has nearly disappeared. The extent of forests and grasslands increased in the postsocialist period due to national afforestation programs and the demand of new suburbanites for recreational space. Urban sprawl and the conversion of agricultural land should be an essential issue during the upcoming E.U. Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms.
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