Farming for Ecosystem Services: Visualization of Alternative Working Landscapes

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2009: $9,996.50
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Grant Recipient: Iowa State University
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Lisa Schulte Moore
Iowa State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn
  • Vegetables: beans


  • Crop Production: windbreaks
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, display, extension, focus group, networking, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: agritourism, new enterprise development, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, hedgerows, hedges - grass, hedges - woody, indicators, riparian buffers, riverbank protection, wetlands, wildlife
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, infrastructure analysis

    Proposal abstract:

    There is growing recognition worldwide that the ecosystem services provided through natural ecosystem functions are critical in creating and sustaining productive and resilient societies. Furthermore, ecosystem services are integral to the sustainable agriculture paradigm, which seeks to integrate services such as biological pest control and pollination, water and nutrient cycling, and the prevention of erosion and floods to lower the costs of farming and enhance public benefits associated with agricultural landscapes. As societal demand for ecosystem services intensifies, it is imperative that private landowners, producers, policy makers, and the public can effectively work toward a common vision for these landscapes. A key barrier to achieving this goal lies in the complexity associated with the provisioning of ecosystem services—the underlying knowledge is hard to communicate, as it is perceived to be complicated, inaccessible, and fraught with uncertainty. To overcome this communication barrier, I propose to develop and visualize alternative agricultural landscape scenarios with diverse agricultural stakeholders in America’s Heartland; scenarios will be strategically designed to capitalize on ecosystem services while maintaining high agricultural productivity. Project objectives are to: 1) survey stakeholders to determine the suite of ecosystem services considered critical in this region 2) use their input to design alternative agricultural landscape scenarios 3) analyze and visualize the ecosystem services associated with these scenarios 4) examine the effectiveness of visualization as a tool for enhanced communication among diverse groups. In the long term, this work will assist in creation of ecosystem service districts

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The short-term objectives are:
    1) a facilitated discussion on the provision of ecosystem services from agricultural landscapes among researchers, producers, policymakers, and other stakeholders
    2) the identification of key ecosystems services important to diverse agricultural stakeholder groups

    The collaborative process itself will open avenues of communication and understanding among stakeholders. The intermediate-term objectives are:
    1) comparison of ecosystem service potential across different agricultural landscape designs
    2) site-specific, graphical visualization as a tool that agricultural stakeholders can use to communicate regarding multifunctional agriculture and ecosystem services
    3) manuscripts submitted for publication in peer-review and popular journals
    4) website development for education purposes

    The long-term objectives is an increased ability for proponents of sustainable agriculture to effectively disseminate knowledge of ecosystem services and a tool to aid in the development of multifunctional agricultural landscapes.

    The short and intermediate term outputs of this project will be assembled and evaluated in cooperation with a diverse group of agricultural stakeholders. This interaction will help ensure the utility of project outputs among user communities.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.