Picture the iconic American landscape: you might have in your mind an expanse of productive farmland, maybe with a red barn or a farmhouse with a porch swing. I am driven by my desire to protect those iconic, but often overlooked, working landscapes. I believe that we can better protect these places by ensuring that they provide food as well as the many other things that people get from agricultural landscapes. Biodiversity. Places to recreate. Flood control. Connection to history and a sense of place. These ecosystem services are crucial to us all, and protecting farmland is the only way to ensure their provision into the long future.
When we focus solely on the efficient production of food in agricultural landscapes, we often unknowingly or accidentally cause declines in other, equally important, ecosystem services. Unfortunately, we currently lack the tools needed to make decisions about agricultural landscape management that consider multiple services. To successfully manage multiple ecosystem services, communities need reliable information and effective tools to evaluate how physical structure of the landscape, biological interactions on the landscape, and human decisions about the landscape affect the provision of these services.
My students and I seek to produce tools that link landscapes, biodiversity, and ecosystem services to improve decision-making about ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes. We use this framework to build practical decision-support tools and work with communities to use and refine these tools as they grapple with the challenges of preserving our iconic landscapes in the face of local, regional, and global change.