Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: December 18, 2008
Publication Date: March 31, 2009
Citation: Sanderson, M.A., Goslee, S.C., Soder, K.J., Skinner, R.H., Adler, P.R. 2009. Managing Forage and Grazing Lands for Multiple Ecosystem Services. In: Franzluebbers, A.J., editor. 2009. Farming with Grass: Achieving Sustainable Mixed Agricultural Landscapes. Ankeny, IA: Soil and Water Conservation Society. p. 82-95.
Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.
Forage and grazing land systems are increasingly expected to provide services beyond food, feed, and fiber. The concept of multifunctionality in grassland agriculture recognizes ecosystem services beyond these traditional functions to include emerging services such as carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas mitigation, and bioenergy production. Lauded as paragons of sustainability, the benefits of grassland systems include a permanent vegetative cover to reduce soil erosion and protect water quality, and a pleasing landscape. The assumed benefits of grassland systems sometimes are accepted uncritically, and the potential limits of grassland systems are not recognized. Intensifying grassland production can cause environmental harm, and increasing agricultural bioenergy production by simply appropriating grasslands will marginalize forage-livestock producers. Innovative management is critical to realizing the various ecosystem services from forage and grazing lands. New policies, programs, or payment systems to encourage grassland farming must acknowledge and understand the tradeoffs between production and environmental consequences. Despite a long history of grassland agriculture, we have a long way to go to develop a quantitative scientific understanding of how ecological principles can be used to improve agricultural sustainability.