Ecology in Agricultural Landscapes: seeking solutions for food, water, wildlife

A compendium of agro-ecology sessions at the 2013 annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America

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Media advisory

For Immediate Release:  Tuesday, 23 July 2013
Contact: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; gro.asenull@retsell


Agriculture alters the landscape more than any other human activity, with trickle-down effects on water, soil, climate, plant and wildlife diversity, wildfire, and human health. Crop and rangeland occupies nearly 40 percent of earth’s ice-free land, and mountains and deserts make much of the remaining surface unwelcoming to agriculture. Our increasing population applies constant pressure for further conversion of wild lands to agricultural production. With yields plateauing in many parts of the world, managers, both private and public, are looking for new ideas to get the most out of agricultural lands, sustain production into the future, and protect natural resources.

Multiple sessions will address the ecological study of agricultural systems at the Ecological Society of America’s 98th Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 4 – 9.

Presenting scientists will examine routes to improved soil, water, and nutrient retention, pollinator support, and pest suppression by natural enemies. They will discuss opportunities to increase biodiversity in agricultural areas and mitigate runoff.


Land sharing

Soil erosion….or not. STRIPs project - LIsa Schulte Moore presents at the Aster Cafe on Wednesday August 7 at 5:30pm

Soil erosion….or not. Even small amounts of perennials can have a dramatic impact on the environmental benefits provided by row-cropped agricultural lands. This image depicts the ability of native prairie to keep soil in farm fields, where it can produce crops, as opposed to allowing it to move into streams, where it becomes a serious pollutant.
Lisa Schulte Moore won the inaugural ESA2013 Science Cafe Prize with her vision for change in modern agriculture based on ecological knowledge and experimentation. Schulte Moore, a professor of landscape ecology at Iowa State University, will speak at a public event at the Aster Cafe on the riverfront in Minneapolis, at 5:30pm on Wednesday August 7. Photo, Dave Williams.

OOS 23: Bridging The Public-Private Land Divide – Supporting Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services By Tapping The Ingenuity In Social-Ecological Systems.
Thursday, August 8, 2013: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM, room 101A

For much of the world, high-intensity industrial farming produces food with high efficiency, but puts the squeeze on other plant and animal life. Wildlife is mostly sequestered on preserves. But is this the best way to maximize food and biodiversity? Or are there other configurations that might improve mobility of wildlife and benefit other ecosystem services without cost (and possibly with benefit) to private land owners?

“We are probably not going to be able to achieve landscape conservation goals for soil, water, and wildlife, specifically grasslands and birds, working on publically-owned lands alone. We will need to incorporate private lands,” said session moderator Chris Woodson, a private lands biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Missouri.

Conservation biologists are looking for conservation-supportive practices that have potential to augment protected areas on public lands and aid existing programs. Private landowners and entrepreneurs are looking for contributions that they can make to conservation and still make a living.

This session brings together managers, scientists, private land owners, and entrepreneurs to discuss ideas, pilot projects, and existing public-private partnerships, and seek areas of mission overlap and opportunities for collective action.

“Lower case c conservation is what we want to see happen,” said session co-organizer Paul Charland, a wildland firefighter with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Capital C Conservation is official business; it’s the movement as an organizational process. Lower case conservation is all efforts to keep native species. We want to provide a mechanism for everyone to do that.”


Organizers:         Patrica Heglund (vog.swfnull@dnulgeH_aicirtaP); Paul Charland (vog.swfnull@dnalrahc_luap); Carol Williams; Chris Woodson   (vog.swfnull@nosdoow_sirhc)



Connecting the global to the local – agricultural landscapes from field to orbit

SYMP 20: Integrating Agro-Ecological Research Across Spatial and Temporal Scales
Thursday, August 8, 2013: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM

Kate Brauman integrating eco-agro research scales ESA2013

Collage assembled by Kate Brauman. Image Credits – Globe: Reto Stöckli, Robert Simmon, MODIS teams, NASA. Satellite images: shrimp aquaculture in Honduras, Landsat 7, 1999, Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory. Small photos: Kate Brauman.

Big changes in agriculture are visible on the global scale – changes in crop yields, dietary choices, water use, fertilizer application, soil retention, and nutrient pollution. In some parts of the world, yield lags, revealing opportunities to get more out of land already in production. In others, crop production has sagged or plateaued. Will yields keep increasing as they have in the past? It’s hard to see trajectories without local context, said session organizer Kate Brauman of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Site-specific field work fills in details.

“Agronomy has been working very successfully for a long time, and it’s been focused on practitioners,” said Brauman. “And global analysis can be hard for someone in the field to interpret. How can we take insights from the local to the global scale and make them useful?”

Ecology has great scientists studying the very local, applied art and science of getting more yield out of our crops and the local ecological effects of agriculture, and great scientists studying global trends, said Bauman. It does not have much of a history of cross-pollination between the groups. This session aims to bridge gulfs of scientific culture and of scale, connecting the satellite’s eye view of global change to the view from the field; computational modeling to on-the-ground experimentation; and snapshot observations to daily, seasonal, annual, and decadal change.


Organizer: Kate Brauman (ude.nmunull@namuarbk)



Resilient future

Two “Ignite” sessions offer a series of 5-minute introductions to ideas for the future interdependency of conservation and agriculture, from plant breeding and field design, to farm policy.




  • PS-29: Agriculture            Tuesday, August 6, 2013: 4:30 PM-6:30 PM, Exhibit Hall B
    (Poster session)
  • COS 1: Agriculture I         Monday, August 5, 2013: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM, room L100I
    Grasslands, coffee, excess nitrogen fertilizer
  • COS 18: Agriculture II      Tuesday, August 6, 2013: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM, room 101C
    Biodiversity, weeds, spatial organization
  • COS 80: Soil Ecology        Wednesday, August 7, 2013: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM, room M100GD
    Includes soybean symbiosis, prairie grazing gradients, and bioenergy constraints.
  • COS 77: Land-Use And Land-Use History               Wednesday, August 7, 2013: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM, room L100H
    Consequences of armed conflict, restoration ecology, and shifting away from beef(?).
  • OOS 24: Managing Belowground Processes In Agroecosystems  Thursday, August 8, 2013: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM, room 101B
    The invisible world of roots, fungi, insects, arthropods, microbes, and decomposing plants matter matter very much to crop success and environmental health. This session will evaluate the state of the science and “alternative” agro-ecological systems, and discuss management opportunities.
  • COS 126: Pollination        Friday, August 9, 2013: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM, room L100G
    Cranberries, blueberries, and parasitoid wasps.



Press Registration for the Annual Meeting, August 4 – 9, 2013:

We waive registration fees for reporters with a recognized press card and for current members of the National Association of Science Writers, the Canadian Science Writers Association, the International Science Writers Association and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Email Liza Lester, gro.asenull@retsell.

Meeting abstracts are not embargoed.


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