is the single largest driver of land-use change around the world. Pressure is
mounting on agricultural landscapes and natural systems as the global human
population continues to grow and more land is converted to support meat-intensive
diets and an expanding bioenergy sector. Today agriculture accounts for 70%
of the total global freshwater withdrawals, it alters the hydrological cycle at local to regional scales, and is a major driver behind nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.
While expansion and intensification of agricultural systems can boost food
production, it comes at a cost to life-supporting ecosystems. A fundamental
dilemma is whether we can meet the Millenium Development Goals (MDG's) on hunger
and poverty leading to increasing demands for agricultural production without losing
the resilience of social-ecological systems.
The RA is at the forefront of research efforts to analyze the role of water
management for building resilience in agricultural landscapes. The following
three research themes have emerged to address resilience in agricultural systems:
- Managing water to build resilience in agricultural
Led by researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and Arizona
State University (ASU), the project will compare case studies involving resilience
of agricultural landscapes in semi-arid regions. Focusing on improving water
management in agricultural systems to increase food production in line with
the Millennium Development Goals while also addressing cross-scale linkages
and trade-offs with other water uses.
- Tipping points in the biosphere: Assessing resilience
of ecosystem services to global agricultural expansion
Research will address social-ecological regime shifts that are triggered by
agriculturally-driven changes in water quality and quantity, particularly
at the global scale. RA members have organized a symposium on this topic at
the Ecological Society of America's annual meeting in August 2007.
- Managing for synergies and dealing with trade-offs
among bundles of ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes
The aim of this project is to develop a conceptual framework and new empirical
methods for investigating multi-dimensional trade-offs and synergies among
'bundles of ecosystem services'.