Down on the farm

Human populations depend upon agriculture for food, fiber and forage to feed livestock. And although scientists now better understand the relationships between biological diversity and ecological processes, considerable debate still exists about biodiversity's role in how ecosystems actually function.

"Nowhere is the importance of understanding this relationship more evident than in agricultural areas, where the productivity, stability, and resilience of the system are clearly critical for human existence," says Alison Power of Cornell University.

To shed more light on what scientists studying agricultural systems have learned, Ivette Perfecto of University of Michigan--Ann Arbor, together with Power, have organized a symposium, "Biodiversity and Ecological Processes in Agroecosystems" to be held during the Ecological Society of America's Annual Meeting in Savannah, Georgia.

"For millennia, farmers have manipulated the diversity and composition of plants," says Power. "And because agricultural systems include a whole host of processes such as disease regulation, nutrient extraction, and productivity, agroecology has a lot to contribute to improving our understanding of how biodiversity influences a given ecosystem."

Some of the nation's leading experts in the fields of community ecology, ecosystems ecology, population genetics, and biogeochemistry will explore the range of ways in which biological diversity influences agricultural productivity and sustainability, including:

  • how plant and animal diversity affect crop productivity and sustainability
  • the relationship between soil microbial diversity and biogeochemical cycles
  • and the role diversity plays in pest dynamics

Among the line-up of speakers are Laurie Drinkwater, also of Cornell University, Katherine Gross, of Michigan State University, and Russell Greenberg, of the Smithsonian Institution.

Drinkwater's talk, "Managing b

Contact: Nadine Lymn
Ecological Society of America

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