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Assessment and communication of the value of biodiversity in agroecosystems

John E. Quinn, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Continued biodiversity loss necessitates a new vision for the future of biodiversity conservation, one that includes agriculture. Our current failure to find a shared vision and a common language compounds the challenges facing farmers and conservationists alike. While ecological and cultural barriers to multiple use of arable land exist, quantifying, assessing, and communicating multiple outputs from farm systems has the potential to mediate the conflict between conservation and agrarian communities. Movement towards reconciliation will require practitioners of both fields to progress beyond production and exclusion towards ecosystem management that measures and balances multiple ecological services. Assessing and communicating the value of biodiversity will be an essential part of the future of farming and conservation. ^ However, incorporation of biodiversity into farm level decision-making has been slow. To engage farmers in consideration of biodiversity, the Healthy Farm Index is presented as an assessment tool for individual landowners. Balancing multiple outputs requires new assessment tools that recognize positive consequences of management decisions and address the multiple choices and constraints that farmers face. Building on past and current research efforts and in cooperation with organic producers in Nebraska and Kansas, the Healthy Farm Index is designed to encompass the multi-functional nature of biodiversity in farm systems. Informed by broad research efforts, this project provides a practical assessment tool to farmers, policy makers, and others interested in assessing ecosystem services on farms. ^ Lastly, building on work comparing species conservation in organic and non-organic systems, we focus within organic systems to better understand how avian species can best be maintained with regards to the spectrum of farming practices that fall under organic certification. Organic management that limits itself to following the most basic USDA regulations cannot make up for an absence of habitat, but organic farms that retain appropriate non-crop habitats contribute to both biodiversity maintenance and food production. A balance that is essential if a growing world population is going to be provided sufficient food resources.^

Subject Area

Biology, Ecology|Agriculture, General

Recommended Citation

Quinn, John E., "Assessment and communication of the value of biodiversity in agroecosystems" (2010). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3398340.