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Agroecosystem

Agroecosystem in Croton-on-Hudson, New York in Westchester County. Intercropped tomatoes, basil, peppers and eggplants.

An agroecosystem is the basic unit of study in agroecology, and is somewhat arbitrarily defined as a spatially and functionally coherent unit of agricultural activity, and includes the living and nonliving components involved in that unit as well as their interactions. [1]

An agroecosystem can be viewed as a subset of a conventional ecosystem. As the name implies, at the core of an agroecosystem lies the human activity of agriculture. However, an agroecosystem is not restricted to the immediate site of agricultural activity (e.g. the farm), but rather includes the region that is impacted by this activity, usually by changes to the complexity of species assemblages and energy flows, as well as to the net nutrient balance. Traditionally an agroecosystem, particularly one managed intensively, is characterized as having a simpler species composition and simpler energy and nutrient flows than "natural" ecosystem.[2] Likewise, agroecosystems are often associated with elevated nutrient input, much of which exits the farm leading to eutrophication of connected ecosystems not directly engaged in agriculture.[3]

Contents

  • The future for farming? 1
  • A long tradition 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5

The future for farming?

Some major organizations are hailing farming within agroecosystems as the way forward for mainstream agriculture. Current farming methods have resulted in over-stretched water resources, high levels of erosion and reduced soil fertility. According to a report by the International Water Management Institute and the United Nations Environment Programme,[4] there is not enough water to continue farming using current practices; therefore how critical water, land, and ecosystem resources are used to boost crop yields must be reconsidered. The report suggested assigning value to ecosystems, recognizing environmental and livelihood tradeoffs, and balancing the rights of a variety of users and interests, as well addressing inequities that sometimes result when such measures are adopted, such as the reallocation of water from poor to rich, the clearing of land to make way for more productive farmland, or the preservation of a wetland system that limits fishing rights.[5]

A long tradition

Forest gardens are probably the world's oldest and most resilient agroecosystem.[6] Forest gardens originated in prehistoric times along jungle-clad river banks and in the wet foothills of monsoon regions. In the gradual process of a family improving their immediate environment, useful tree and vine species were identified, protected and improved whilst undesirable species were eliminated. Eventually superior foreign species were selected and incorporated into the family's garden.[7]

One of the major efforts of disciplines such as watershed scale. An example is the National Association of Conservation Districts' Lake Mendota Watershed Project, which seeks to reduce runoff from the agricultural lands feeding into the lake with the aim of reducing algal blooms. [8]

See also

Notes

  • Loucks, Orie (November 1977). "Emergence of Research on Agro-Ecosystems". Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 8: 173–192.  

References

  1. ^ Agro-ecosystem Health Project. 1996. Agroecosystem health. University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada.
  2. ^ Elske van de Fliert and Ann R. Braun. 1999. Farmer Field School for Integrated Crop Management of Sweetpotato. Field guides and Technical Manual. Bogor, Indonesia: International Potato Center. ISBN 92-9060-216-3. http://www.eseap.cipotato.org/MF-ESEAP/Abstract/FFS-ICM-SP-Ind.htm
  3. ^ Agroecosystem Management for Improved Human Health: Applying principles of integrated pest management to people. D. G. Peden. Published in New Directions in Animal Production Systems. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society of Animal Science, July 5–8, 1998, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Edited by R. Blair, R. Rajamahendran, L.S. Stephens, M.Y. Yang. http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-3443-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html
  4. ^ Boelee, E. (Ed) Ecosystems for water and food security, 2011, IWMI, UNEP
  5. ^ Molden, D., Opinion: The Water Deficit, The Scientist, 23 August 2011
  6. ^ Douglas John McConnell (2003). The Forest Farms of Kandy: And Other Gardens of Complete Design. p. 1. 
  7. ^ Douglas John McConnell (1992). The forest-garden farms of Kandy, Sri Lanka. p. 1. 
  8. ^ TMDL Case Study: Wisconsin http://www.nacdnet.org/policy/environment/water/tmdl/casestudies/wisconsin.phtml
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