The first big synthesis paper from NSERC ResNet is out today in Advances in Ecological Research, Ecosystem services and the resilience of agricultural landscapes. Led by ResNet PI Elena Bennet, with 20 co-authors from the larger team across our agricultural landscape case studies and integrative themes, this paper assesses “how recent changes have interacted with agro-ecosystem features to result in a loss of resilience, and suggest[s] key research directions to help harmonize production and ecosystem function, drawing primarily on Canadian examples”. This also provides us a strong conceptual framework as we initiate our primary and scenario-based work over the next five years, including in the Bay of Fundy agricultural dykelands and tidal wetlands, the ResNet case study I’m co-leading.
Back in 2014 colleagues at Leuphana and I had a chapter accepted in a volume of Ecological Reviews on Agricultural Resilience: perspectives from ecology and economics. I’m delighted to be able to report that the volume is finally published, five years later. Our chapter looks at the resilience implications of land sharing and land sparing, using as a case study the southeastern sheep-wheat belt where co-author Joern Fischer and I did our postdocs back at ANU in the late 2000s. We compared grazing archetypes of land sparing (fencing out dense woodlands for protection while continuously grazing the rest; see above) and land sharing (farmers using HM, who grazed intensively and rotationally pretty much everywhere on their farms, supporting scattered trees and their recruitment but few dense woodlands; see below). The resilience implications of these options are analyzed, integrating ecology, economics and social dimensions, and consistent with where the broader sharing/sparing debate has settled, reached the conclusion that a diversity of approaches is needed for system-wide sustainability.
Some of my favourite parts of the chapter are the sample quotes included on the social challenges of adopting HM practices that draw from my 2008 photo-elicitation interviews with graziers across a range of practices. They speak to the mundane yet powerful barriers of change that come from our need for relationships and respect: for instance, not having anything to talk to conventional farmers about at BBQs (“what will I open with?”), or having people think they’ve “lost the plot” and feeling the pressure after HM training to “go like a sheep and follow the rest” rather than convert. Such pressures align with some of what we’re hearing from HM trainers, too.
Amidst lots of marking, which often displeases one if not both people involved, happy to get news Friday of New PhD student Bernard Soubry’s recent appearance at Senate. Bernard skyped from Ottawa to update me on the dissemination in policy circles of research findings from his Masters, which included giving evidence to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry (televised by CPAC here, forward to hour two; transcript here). Great to have such a skilled political player on the team. Looking forward to having him back in the Maritimes this winter, conducting new interviews for his Oxford PhD which again engages with small-scale Maritime farmers and climate change.
Great to see Penny Slight’s 2012 SSHRC-funded MES thesis appearing in the literature, via a new paper, Policy support for rural economic development based on Holling’s ecological concept of panarchy. She identified leverage points on the adaptive change cycle where economic development agencies could intervene to improve rural futures, based on interviews with economic development agents in the Canadian Maritimes. Penny has been working since graduation as an Environmental Scientist at Nova Scotia Power. I was on her committee, which was led by my colleague Michelle Adams.