Complexity of human and ecosystem interactions in an agricultural landscape

Environmental Development
By: , and 



The complexity of human interaction in the commercial agricultural landscape and the resulting impacts on the ecosystem services of water quality and quantity is largely ignored by the current agricultural paradigm that maximizes crop production over other ecosystem services. Three examples at different spatial scales (local, regional, and global) are presented where human and ecosystem interactions in a commercial agricultural landscape adversely affect water quality and quantity in unintended ways in the Delta of northwestern Mississippi. In the first example, little to no regulation of groundwater use for irrigation has caused declines in groundwater levels resulting in loss of baseflow to streams and threatening future water supply. In the second example, federal policy which subsidizes corn for biofuel production has encouraged many producers to switch from cotton to corn, which requires more nutrients and water, counter to national efforts to reduce nutrient loads to the Gulf of Mexico and exacerbating groundwater level declines. The third example is the wholesale adoption of a system for weed control that relies on a single chemical, initially providing many benefits and ultimately leading to the widespread occurrence of glyphosate and its degradates in Delta streams and necessitating higher application rates of glyphosate as well as the use of other herbicides due to increasing weed resistance. Although these examples are specific to the Mississippi Delta, analogous situations exist throughout the world and point to the need for change in how we grow our food, fuel, and fiber, and manage our soil and water resources.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Complexity of human and ecosystem interactions in an agricultural landscape
Series title Environmental Development
DOI 10.1016/j.envdev.2012.09.009
Volume 4
Year Published 2012
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Publisher location Amsterdam
Contributing office(s) Mississippi Water Science Center
Description 17 p.
First page 88
Last page 104
Country United States
State Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri
Other Geospatial Mississippi River
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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