Reconnecting People to Nature: Planning for Multi-Functional Agricultural Landscapes

Saturday, February 16, 2013
Room 309 (Hynes Convention Center)
Elena Bennett , McGill University, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC, Canada
Agricultural landscapes can provide multiple ecosystem services, including food, high quality freshwater, opportunities for recreation, and flood control. Yet, a narrow focus on food production can unintentionally undermine the delivery of other key services. Ecosystem services can be a very effective organizing principle for meeting the food needs of a growing global population while maintaining resilient provision of other services in agroecosystems. The very idea of ecosystem services compels us to consider more than one service and obliges us to consider the interactions and relationships among services on the landscape. Dr. Bennett will present a new modeling framework to quantitatively link landscape planning, biodiversity, and multiple ecosystem services in southern Quebec. This framework shows how landscape configuration, and especially the connectivity of forest patches in the agricultural and peri-urban milieu, affects biodiversity and the provision of several ecosystem services. Dr. Bennett and her colleagues are working with local and provincial government bodies to develop and use the modeling framework to improve land use decision-making. Working closely with local communities to develop the framework and questions has built strong bridges between groups typically separated (Anglophone McGill and Francophone local community), has enabled the modeling framework to be built to suit local needs, and has fostered strong local interest in the project and its results.

The southern Quebec landscape, like many peri-urban landscapes in Canada, has been through many changes and will certainly continue to change in response to local and regional decision-making as well as pressures from climate change and larger-scale economic forces.  Regional planners striving to maintain a healthy, multifunctional landscape need new tools to decide which landscape patterns can best maintain the health of the landscape for the maximum number of stakeholders. Our results are building scientific knowledge about linkages between landscape-level influences on ecosystem change and the provision of multiple ES and, at the same time, improving local management.