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Demand for locally-produced food is growing in areas outside traditionally dominant agricultural regions due to concerns over food safety, quality, and sovereignty; rural livelihoods; and environmental integrity. Strategies for meeting this demand rely upon agricultural land use change, in various forms of either intensification or extensification (converting non-agricultural land, including native landforms, to agricultural use). The nature and extent of the impacts of these changes on non-food-provisioning ecosystem services are determined by a complex suite of scale-dependent interactions among farming practices, site-specific characteristics, and the ecosystem services under consideration. Ecosystem modeling strategies which honor such complexity are often impenetrable by non-experts, resulting in a prevalent conceptual gap between ecosystem sciences and the field of sustainable agriculture. Referencing heavily forested New England as an example, we present a conceptual framework designed to synthesize and convey understanding of the scale- and landscape-dependent nature of the relationship between agriculture and various ecosystem services. By accounting for the total impact of multiple disturbances across a landscape while considering the effects of scale, the framework is intended to stimulate and support the collaborative efforts of land managers, scientists, citizen stakeholders, and policy makers as they address the challenges of expanding local agriculture.
Earth Systems Research Center
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Hale, I.L, W.M. Wollheim, R.G.Smith, H. Asbjornsen, A.F. Brito, K.D. Broders, A.S. Grandy, R.J. Rowe. 2014. A Scale-Explicit Framework for Conceptualizing the Environmental Impacts of Agricultural Land Use Changes. Sustainability. 6, 8432-8451; doi:10.3390/su6128432