Most current modeling frameworks have a limited view when gauging the response of an agroecosystem to different stressors. They tend to focus individually on either productivity in terms of crop yield, or profit, in terms of net income. However, if the framework does not include a means to assess the overall health of the agroecosystem, it will provide only a short-range sense of food security. The current practices may initially provide a spike in yield or income, but they also may mask the slow but ongoing degradation of the soil.
How can we measure how well current and potential future land stewardship decisions balance system productivity, farmer financial gains, and overall system health?
The PIs developed an integrated ecological-economic modeling framework that examines the production of different ecosystem services including crop productivity, carbon storage, CO2 fluxes, and net income for current practices using different metrics. One metric that proved to be most responsive to different climate and land management drivers was the Carbon Management Index (CMI). The CMI is a valuable addition to the list of metrics as it provides a good measure of how sustainable a practice can be. In this case, it appears that the least intensive tillage practice is best for sustaining productivity. This is due to the combination of the Carbon Pool Index (CPI), which captures the level of the management disturbance through the loss of Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) compared to a reference value, with the Lability Index (LI) which reflects the type of carbon being stored in the system.
Christopher Wilson, Ken Wacha
Year of Grant Completion
Papanicolaou, Thanos N.; Wilson, Christopher; and Wacha, Kenneth M., "Cultivating conservation: Bringing ecology, economics and ethics together" (2015). Leopold Center Completed Grant Reports. 498.