Managing water in agriculture for food production and other ecosystem services

Author(s): Gordon, L.J., Finlayson, C.M., Falkenmark, M.
In: Agricultural Water Management, doi: 10.1016/j.agwat.2009.03.017
Year: 2009
Type: Journal / article
Theme affiliation: Landscapes
Link to centre authors: Falkenmark, Malin, Gordon, Line
Full reference: Gordon, L.J., Finlayson, C.M., Falkenmark, M. (2009). Managing water in agriculture for food production and other ecosystem services. Agricultural Water Management, doi: 10.1016/j.agwat.2009.03.017

Publication review

Agricultural systems as well as other ecosystems generate ecosystem services, i.e., societal benefits from ecological processes.

These services include, for example, nutrient reduction that leads to water quality improvements in some wetlands and climatic regulation through recycling of precipitation in rain forests. While agriculture has increased ‘provisioning´ ecosystem services, such as food, fiber and timber production, it has, through time, substantially impacted other ecosystem services.

Here we review the trade-offs among ecosystem services that have been generated by agriculture-induced changes to water quality and quantity in downstream aquatic systems, wetlands and terrestrial systems.

We highlight emerging issues that need urgent attention in research and policy making. We identify three main strategies by which agricultural water management can deal with these large trade-offs: (a) improving water management practices on agricultural lands, (b) better linkage with management of downstream aquatic ecosystems, and (c) paying more attention to how water can be managed to create multifunctional agro-ecosystems.

This can only be done if ecological landscape processes are better understood, and the values of ecosystem services other than food production are also recognized.

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