Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: CONSERVATION EFFECTS ASSESSMENT IN THE SOUTH GEORGIA LITTLE RIVER Title: From "connecting the dots" to "threading the needle:" The challenges ahead in managing agricultural landscapes for environmental quality

Authors
item Groffman, Peter -
item Gold, Arthur -
item Cox, Craig -
item Duriancik, Lisa -
item Lowrance, Robert
item Nowak, Pete -

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: October 31, 2010
Publication Date: January 31, 2011
Citation: Groffman, P., Gold, A., Cox, C., Duriancik, L., Lowrance, R.R. 2011. From "connecting the dots" to "threading the needle:" The challenges ahead in managing agricultural landscapes for environmental quality. In: Nowak, P., Schnepf, M. Managing agricultural landscapes to achieve more effective conservation. Soil and Water Conservation Society, Ankeny, IA. p. 1-12.

Interpretive Summary: Although farmers manage fields and farms, environmental problems from agriculture are usually manifested at the watershed or landscape scale. Examples of these problems include nonpoint source pollution from agriculture (watershed scale) and loss of wildlife habitat (landscape scale). In this book chapter, we briefly review the development of “landscape thinking” in agriculture and how this has been incorporated into the Conservation Effects Assessment Program (CEAP), a USDA program designed to quantify the effects of conservation practices on a watershed or landscape scale. We present some successes in landscape approaches to agricultural systems and then discuss the key biological,physical, sociological, and policy challenges facing this effort. By combining innovative landscape practices with monitoring, modeling and experiments, we argue that we can make great progress in reducing nonpoint source pollution over the next 10 – 20 years. The science base for understanding the hydrology and biogeochemistry of agricultural landscapes is strong and constantly improving, there are exciting ideas for increasing the flow of information from science to society, and clever new policy and institutional tools are emerging to facilitate implementation of new science and outreach. While there is still quite a bit of uncertainty about managing agricultural landscapes, society needs to move ahead with new landscape-scale programs such as the Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI). An adaptive approach recognizes that while we know a lot about managing agricultural landscapes, there are also great uncertainties. An adaptive management approach acknowledges that the potential for making progress is dependent on instituting new programs in multiple locations, monitoring the success of these programs, using monitoring results to improve our scientific understanding and models, and then modifying the programs to improve their effectiveness. Over time, this approach should lead to improved understanding and management of agricultural landscapes and marked reductions in the impact of agriculture on important natural resources.

Technical Abstract: Non point source pollution from agriculture is one of the most challenging problems facing society. In this book chapter, we briefly review the development of “landscape thinking” in agriculture and how this has been incorporated into the USDA Conservation Effects Assessment Program (CEAP). We present some successes in landscape approaches to agricultural systems and then discuss the key biophysical, human dimensions and institutional/policy challenges facing this effort. By combining innovative landscape practices with monitoring, modeling and experiments, we argue that we can make great progress in reducing nonpoint source pollution over the next 10 – 20 years. The science base for understanding the hydrology and biogeochemistry of agricultural landscapes is strong and constantly improving, there are exciting ideas for increasing the flow of information from science to society, and clever new policy and institutional tools are emerging to facilitate implementation of new science and outreach. While there is still quite a bit of uncertainty about managing agricultural landscapes, society needs to move ahead with new landscape-scale programs, with an adaptive approach. An adaptive approach recognizes that while we know a lot about managing agricultural landscapes, there are also great uncertainties, and the world is constantly changing (climate, demographics, global economy). An adaptive management approach acknowledges that the potential for making progress is dependent on instituting new programs in multiple locations, monitoring the success of these programs, using monitoring results to improve our scientific understanding and models, and then modifying the programs to improve their effectiveness. Over time, this approach should lead to improved understanding and management of agricultural landscapes and marked reductions in the impact of agriculture on important natural resources.

Last Modified: 12/22/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page