As natural areas within agroecosystems are developed or converted to cropland, ecosystem services such as biocontrol and carbon storage may be compromised. We hypothesize that ecosystem services and landowners’ net profits can be increased by optimizing the spatial distribution and management practices of grasslands that are interspersed in agricultural landscapes. We have been testing this hypothesis in a representative Midwestern landscape by developing and parameterizing a spatially explicit model of crop production, soybean pest control practices, carbon storage, and grassland natural enemy abundance and dispersal. Our model will estimate how stressors affect the supply of grassland-derived ecosystem services, focusing on grassland loss from land use change and changes in grassland composition that result from invasive plant species or management practices. This model will inform new decision-making tools that help optimize ecosystem service provisioning.
We will examine how soil organic carbon (SOC) and natural enemies of soybean aphids vary across seven land management regimes in northwestern Indiana. These include remnant prairie preserves, high diversity grassland plantings, two types of USDA grassland plantings (moderate and low diversity), and soybean fields under three pest management treatments. These comparisons will show how pest management strategies, grassland plant composition, and land use affect natural enemy abundance and carbon sequestration. We will use our field-collected data to parameterize a landscape gradient and diffusion model that will estimate the supply of biocontrol services across the larger agricultural landscape. We will use the spatial relationships identified in our fieldwork and in the landscape model to quantify economic benefits of ecosystem services in the same landscape.
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