A Landscape Approach to Ecosystem Services in Oregon's Southern Willamette Valley Agricultural Landscape
MetadataShow full item record
Over the past decade, ecosystem services has become a familiar term. Definitions vary but the central idea is that society depends on and is enhanced by earth's resources. Concerns about natural resource depletion and degradation have motivated researchers to move from concept to operation and real-world change. Since the late 1990s, attention has been directed at characterizing the monetary value of ecosystem services to influence decision-making processes. This research has been dominated by the disciplines of ecology and economics with the underlying assumption that the integration of these disciplinary approaches will provide the necessary operational pathways forward. The perspectives of ecology and economics are crucial but the unique qualities of ecosystem services suggest the need to consider other approaches and a willingness to look beyond existing models and disciplinary boundaries. I propose a landscape approach to ecosystem services in which they play a role in the intentional coevolution of social/ ecological systems. I apply this approach to explore the potential for floodplain agricultural landscapes to provide ecosystem services in a 65,000 acre study area located in Oregon's agriculturally-dominated southern Willamette Valley. The landscape's biophysical processes are represented by three ecosystem services: non-structural flood storage, carbon sequestration and floodplain forest. These are quantitatively evaluated using a geographic information system. One aspect of the landscape's sociocultural processes is explored through qualitative interviews with farmers and profiles of the crops they commonly grow. The biophysical and sociocultural research components are integrated through an alternative futures framework to compare the ca. 2000 landscape with a 2050 future landscape in which agricultural production includes ecosystem services. In the 2050 landscape, the synthesis results show where all three ecosystem services are simultaneously provided on 2,981 acres, and where increases in carbon sequestration and floodplain forest are simultaneously provided on an additional 4,841 acres. For the identified acres, the annual income from present-day conventional crop production is provided as a first approximation of the monetary income that farmers would consider for producing ecosystem services.