Projects

The Iowa landscape is highly productive with respect to the production of commodity goods (i.e., corn, soybeans, cattle, etc.) but often neglects to deliver other ecosystem services such as clean water, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, and pollination. In this research project we are assessing the opportunity to adapt the current agricultural system to produce a more diverse suite of ecosystem service outcomes by strategically integrating best management practices using targeted conservation accompanied by a payment for ecosystem services scheme. 

Contemporary harvesting practices frequently result in simplification of structure and composition in managed forest stands in comparison to their natural counterparts. Loss of heterogeneity within stands may pose a problem for maintaining of biodiversity in perpetuity. Although it is known that birds respond to heterogeneity, it is unclear 1) what elements of heterogeneity are generally important and 2) whether some harvesting scenarios can provide more beneficial habitat than others.

Windthrow is a common natural disturbance in many forest ecosystems. By removing trees from the overstory, windthrow changes the light and soil environments of the forest, creating sites for the establishment of new plants. Windthrow is sometimes followed by salvage logging, as landowners attempt to recover some of the value associated with the trees that were blown over.

Working with an interdisciplinary team of scientists, we are developing a portfolio of alternative biomass cropping systems and comparing them to a conventional corn system in terms of their ability to meet agronomic, economic, and environmental performance criteria.

Although perennial vegetation is known to provide beneficial ecosystem services, there is insufficient information about the type, quantity, and spatial arrangements of perennial vegetation to optimally integrate it into agricultural landscapes. This team of scientists working to fill this information need by evaluating the functional value of strategically placed prairie within corn and soybean fields. Click here for a full website dedicated to this project...

People in Ecosystems/Watershed Integration (PEWI) is a simple spreadsheet tool designed to provide a scientific platform for teaching, discussing, and evaluating agricultural watershed management. PEWI encourages users to think through the complexity of social-ecological systems and their associated trade-offs, and build comprehensive understanding of system outputs and outcomes at multiple scales. Click here for more a full website dedicated to this project...