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Ways forward for resilience research in agroecosystems

  • Author(s): Peterson, CA
  • Eviner, VT
  • Gaudin, ACM
  • et al.

Agroecosystems are on both the receiving and contributing ends of increasingly demanding climatic and environmental conditions. Maintaining productive systems under resource scarcity and multiplicative stresses requires precise monitoring and systems-scale planning. By incorporating ecological resilience into agroecosystems research we can gain valuable insight into agroecosystem identity, change, responsivity, and performance under stress, but only if we move away from resilience as a mere touchstone concept. Using the productivity, stability, resistance, and recovery of system processes as a basic framework for resilience monitoring, we propose quantitative research approaches to tackle the continuing lack of biophysical, field-scale indicators needed to lend insight into dynamic resilience variables and mechanisms. We emphasize the importance of considering productive functions, sources of system regulation and disturbance, and cross-scale interactions when applying resilience theory to agroecosystems. Agroecosystem resilience research requires understanding of multiple scales and speeds of influence both above and below the focal scale. When these considerations are addressed, resilience theory can add tangible value to agroecosystems research, both for the purposes of monitoring current systems and of planning future systems that can reconcile productivity and sustainability goals.

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