The variety of farm geographies in Nova Scotia, by number of parcels and time to drive across.
When I first started to do farm biodiversity research in Nova Scotia, after doing the same in Australia, I was surprised by how small and sometimes fragmented the farms were (see above). I wondered if that was a boon or a bust for farm biodiversity. Did having a contiguous farm make the farmer see it more as an ecosystem, and thus make them more likely to foster biodiversity, or did having a fragmented farm make the farmer set aside far-flung places for such purposes? Turns out fragmentation has no real impact on farm habitat provision; farm area does. Read about it at The Canadian Geographer.
A diversity of scholars hard at work at Carleton on issues of sustainable agricultural landscape patterns and ecosystem services.
Thanks to Lenore Fahrig and her team at Carleton, as well as funding from NSERC, for the opportunity to participate yesterday in a meeting of minds about sustainable agricultural landscapes and ecosystem services. Significant snowfall created a cloistered feel and a productive mindset. While numbers were dominated by ecologists, agricultural and spatial scientists from universities, government and NGOs, it was a welcoming and collaborative environment, and ideas about the integration of social science research and stakeholder engagement were greeted enthusiastically.
Our typology of Nova Scotia farm fragmentation based on the number of non-contiguous parcels and the time to drive across the two furthest apart parcels.
When I moved back to Canada from Australia, and started interviewing farmers in Nova Scotia, I was surprised at how small and fragmented their holdings were. I found myself wondering how this spatial pattern influenced their management. Does it mean that it is harder to think of a farm as an ecosystem, and manage accordingly? Or is it a boon for biodiversity, as remoter parcels are left to nature? I threw a few questions about farm fragmentation on our Marginal Land survey last year, and those preliminary results are now in, recently presented on a poster at ISSRM, Farm as ecosystem: What is the impact of fragmented property ownership on farm management? It show us that fragmentation in Nova Scotia is intentional, the result of purposeful land acquisition by serious farmers. While it cannot be ascribed to fragmentation alone based on the data we collected, these high fragmentation farmers were less likely to have ponds and wetlands on their properties (as a function of farm area), though they had just as many woodlands, which are seen to have high ecosystem service value (timber, etc). Moreover, high fragmentation farmers were less likely to undertake biodiversity-friendly farming techniques. I think this is enough to suggest more research is warranted. Next time I want to look for diversity within farms. Does the farmer treat far-flung parcels differently than those closer to the heart of his operations?
Great news in this scholarship season for my group: Incoming MES applicant Farzana Karim and Ruoqian Wang both won Masters Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarships (NSGS; $10K p.a. renewable x 2), also held by second-year MES Yan Chen. Incoming Interdisciplinary PhD applicant Kate Thompson won a PhD-level NSGS ($15K p.a. renewable x 4). Beyond that, first-year MES Taylor Cudney has won a federal SSHRC graduate scholarship to support her second year ($17.5K). This is all great news for these well-deserving recipients, and for lab finances. Research in coastal climate adaptation, agricultural land fragmentation, urban ecosystem services, and energy landscape research are all getting a welcome boost. Brava to all.