PAO: Policy Activities » Briefing

ESA Co-Sponsors Congressional Briefing: “Agriculture, Biology, and Conservation: The ABCs of How Nature Serves the Nation”:

Three prominent scientists presented at House and Senate briefings and met with members of Congress on March 20, 2007 , to discuss the key role of ecosystem services in our nation's food production and overall quality of life. Speakers included former ESA President and member Dr. Kay Gross, a plant ecologist and Director of Michigan State University's Kellogg Biological Station; Dr. Steven Kraft, an agricultural economist and Co-Director of Environmental Resources and Policy at Southern Illinois University Carbondale; and Dr. John Havlin, a professor of soil science at North Carolina State University. Ecosystem services are the conditions and processes through which natural ecosystems sustain and fulfill human life (e.g., crop pollination, soil productivity, nutrient storage and recycling, water filtration, etc.).

With reauthorization of the Farm Bill on the horizon, the scientists brought to light these often less-recognized ecosystem services. The timely briefings drew an attendance of nearly 70 people, including Senate Agricultural Committee and other Congressional staff, representatives from federal agencies, Congressional Research Service staff, and the media. Co-sponsoring these events with ESA were the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, the Soil Science Society of America (ASA/CSSA/SSSA), and the Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics (C-FARE).


Dr. Gross, Dr. Kraft, and Dr. Havlin integrated their respective expertise in ecology, socio-economics, and soil science to stress the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in ensuring the health of ecosystem services.

Dr. Gross discussed the potential for enhancing ecosystem services in agriculture by changing practices both on- and off-farm, as well as the need to consider off-farm, landscape scale potentials for influencing ecosystem services. She also explained how managing agricultural systems for environmental benefits does not necessarily translate into lower crop yields.


Dr. Kraft provided examples of economic goods derived from ecosystem services on working agricultural landscapes. He described two types of benefits we receive from agricultural lands—traditional commodities for which there are well-established markets, and ecosystem services that lack formal markets, typically leading to resource degradation and other problems.


Dr. Havlin addressed the future demands on agro-ecosystem services, noting a growing population, diminishing amount of arable land, and increasing pressure on soil and water resources to provide the food, fiber, and fuel that we depend upon. He emphasized the importance of enhancing our understanding of soil functions in ecosystem services to increase productivity and meet this growing demand.

In meetings with their Congressional representatives, the three scientific experts also highlighted the need for continued funding of critical multi-disciplinary research supported by federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the Department of Agriculture.

Click the links below to view the full PowerPoint presentations from the speakers: