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Ensuring Sustainable, Adaptive Agroecosystems

NIFA supports sustainable agriculture and forestry-based strategies that will attain thriving food and fiber systems and communities that are resilient to climate variability and environmental change.

Photo of logs stacked in a forest by Alberto Masnovo, courtesy Getty Images.
Photo by Alberto Masnovo, courtesy Getty Images.

Impacts

Intensive Agriculture Influences Regional Summer Climate - New research suggests that how we use land may play a significant role in altering the world's climate systems. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dartmouth College discovered that intensive agriculture might influence regional climate. The study showed a strong correlation between increased agriculture in the Midwest with a decrease in average daytime temperatures in the summer and an increase in local rainfall. This finding could help to refine global climate models by incorporating such regional effects.

Douglas fir Ameriflux site photo courtesy of Oregon State University.
Douglas fir Ameriflux site photo courtesy of Oregon State University.

Oregon Forests may Improve Environmental Outlook - Oregon's forests are among the most carbon-dense in the world and may store more. Researchers at Oregon State University used climate models to project that, by 2100, four land use strategies will increase forest carbon update by 56 percent and decrease emissions. Co-benefits include increased biodiversity of forest species and increased water availability. Using half of harvest residues for bioenergy production would not reduce emissions. These approaches may apply in other temperate regions to evaluate climate mitigation options.

Active Management Sustains the Health of Working Forests - Drought, density, bark beetle epidemics, and wildfires cause working forests throughout Washington State to lose vigor. Washington State University Extension presented a sequence of classroom-based and "out-in-the-woods" educational experiences to 1,500 landowners who implemented forest health and wildfire hazard mitigation practices across 125,000 acres of forestland. These wildfire protection practices have saved an estimated $26 million in firefighting costs and more, when considering savings related to watershed protection, infrastructure damages, and human health.

Increasing Ecosystem Services and Climate Change Resilience in the Northeast

Researcher in the field. Photo courtesy of Joshua Faulkner, University of Vermont.
Researcher in the field. Photo courtesy of Joshua Faulkner, University of Vermont.

- University of Vermont Extension is working to understand how different practices on Northeastern dairy farms can help build resilience to weather extremes. By comparing conventional and alternative management practices on the dominant agricultural land uses in Vermont (e.g. corn silage and hay), researchers will be able to better help farmers understand how a shift in cropping management may affect water quality, field and watershed hydrology, and adaptability to climate change.

Milking the Best from Dairy Farm Management - A large multi-institution project led by the University of Wisconsin–Madison examined greenhouse gases and the dairy industry. Reductions in methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide emissions can substantially reduce the environmental footprint of animal production systems. Researchers found that producers could reduce methane emissions by 5-30 percent and increase milk production through better nutrition management and improved genetics.

Improving Forest Carbon and Biomass Models on Tribal Lands - Tribal communities of North America – which are often remote, economically disadvantaged, and highly dependent on natural resources – are especially interested in smart, sustainable forestry. Researchers at Salish Kootenai College in Montana are investigating how forest management in Nez Perce and Flathead Reservation lands can influence the removal of greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and reduce trends toward global warming. The project also provides quality educational opportunities to Native communities, enhances the research capacity at Salish Kootenai College, and creates research partnerships that address locally relevant research questions.

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