Research Topic

Measuring Interactions among Ecosystem Services in Agricultural Landscapes

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About this Research Topic

Agricultural landscapes generate and mediate the supply of numerous goods and services, which interact and impact each other in a myriad of ways, and are fundamental to supporting society. These include consumable goods like crops, livestock, fiber, energy, and wild game and other edibles; non-consumable ...

Agricultural landscapes generate and mediate the supply of numerous goods and services, which interact and impact each other in a myriad of ways, and are fundamental to supporting society. These include consumable goods like crops, livestock, fiber, energy, and wild game and other edibles; non-consumable services like scenic beauty and cultural heritage; supporting services for agricultural production, such as soil moisture retention and nutrient cycling; and other supporting, regulating, and cultural services that contribute more broadly to the dimensions of human well-being, including water quality, climate stability, flood control, and recreational opportunities.

The management of farms and fields can have a dramatic impact “downstream” or off-site on flows of services at landscape, regional or global scales. The integration of agriculture within a landscape – and which specific agricultural practices are employed on farms – can have an enormous effect on the total set of services produced and how equitably they are delivered. For example, the implementation of stream buffers and low tillage regimes for water purification may only be cost-effective along certain slopes or on specific types of soil most prone to erosion; the resulting improvements in water quality will benefit downstream communities who withdraw water or engage in recreational or provisioning services like fishing. Regulatory environmental policies may be used to restrict the negative downstream effects of agricultural management on ecosystem services (e.g. pesticide and fertilizer pollution, water withdrawals), but policies can also provide incentives for management with positive downstream effects on services, such as funds for implementing stream buffers or preserving the rural or semi-natural character of a landscape.

The complexity of dynamics generating and delivering ecosystem goods and services within agricultural systems demands a greater focus on multiple ecosystem services and their interactions and feedbacks. In particular, there is a fairly significant gap in studies that assess multiple ecosystem services on the same sites. The aim of this collection is to compile cutting edge research, methodological approaches, and case studies on multidimensional ecosystem service assessment that explore relationships between services over space and/or time, in order to improve scientific understanding and inform agricultural land management. We also welcome the development of decision-support tools that facilitate (1) the evaluation of these complex dynamics for land managers, or (2) analysis of institutional approaches that can direct ecosystem management towards desirable social and environmental outcomes.


Keywords: multiple ecosystem services, diverse values, trade-offs, synergies, interactions, feedbacks, dynamics, landscapes, beneficiaries, equity, disaggregation, spatial, temporal, farm management


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