Rapid urbanization in China has increased the demand of land resources for urban areas and caused a series of environmental problems. Ecological security under the pressure of urban sprawl has become one typical indicator for illustrating regional environmental conditions and thus inform urban development. As an important farming area and one of the core economic development regions in northeast China, Changchun City is now confronted with severe contradictions between economic growth, habitat conservation and food security. Therefore, with the aim of developing an approach to optimize a regional ecological security pattern and land use structure, this study built a comprehensive ecological security pattern taking into account regional ecological processes including water regulation, soil and water conservation, species protection and recreation. Three patterns of ecological security were identified responding to different levels of ecological conservation: the basic security pattern, the buffer security pattern and the optimal security pattern. Based on the constraint of the ecological security pattern, the preservation area of prime farmland was added to an urban expansion suitability pattern as an additional constraint to simulate scenarios of urban expansion. The results indicate that the basic security pattern covers an area of 374.23 km2
, accounting for 19.27% of the total area of Changchun City. This pattern is considered as the ecological baseline that maintains the basic ecological functions, and it is the area where ecological land cannot be occupied for construction purposes. Furthermore, co-constrained by the preservation area of prime farmland, the ecological conservation area, the ecological restriction area and the suitable development area are 190.34 km2
, 384.75 km2
and 152.83 km2
, respectively, accounting for 9.80%, 19.80% and 7.87% of the total area. It can be concluded that the suitable expansion area for the city is relatively limited when the conservation of farmland and regional ecological environment is considered. Therefore, positive actions such as industrial structure transformation and land use efficiency improvements should be perceived as a preferable pathway for urban development to balance economic growth, and regional ecological and food security.