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Research Project: Enhancing Water Resources, Production Efficiency and Ecosystem Services in Gulf Atlantic Coastal Plain Agricultural Watersheds

Location: Southeast Watershed Research

Title: Regional frameworks for the USDA Long-Term Agroecosystem research (LTAR) Network: Preliminary concepts and potential indicators

Author
item Bean, Alycia
item Coffin, Alisa
item Arthur, Dan
item Baffaut, Claire
item Holifield Collins, Chandra
item Goslee, Sarah
item Ponce Campos, Guillermo
item SCLATER, VIVIENNE - Archbold Biological Station
item Strickland, Timothy - Tim
item Yasarer, Lindsey

Submitted to: Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/30/2020
Publication Date: 2/15/2021
Citation: Bean, A.R., Coffin, A.W., Arthur, D.K., Baffaut, C., Holifield Collins, C.D., Goslee, S.C., Ponce Campos, G.E., Sclater, V., Strickland, T.C., Yasarer, L.M. 2021. Regional frameworks for the USDA Long-Term Agroecosystem research (LTAR) Network: Preliminary concepts and potential indicators. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 4:612785. https://doi.org/10.3389/fsufs.2020.612785.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fsufs.2020.612785

Interpretive Summary: The USDA Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network exists to acquire knowledge for sustainable intensification of agroecosystem productivity while simultaneously minimizing or reversing agriculture's adverse environmental impacts. The LTAR network is a partnership of 18 sites nationwide that conduct agroecosystem research at plot, field/pasture, enterprise, and watershed levels. In 2018, it was recognized that the network lacked a coherent spatial framework for cross-site, cross-scale, regional and network-level synthesis of agricultural research. The LTAR Regionalization Project thus began with the charge of identifying agroecoregions for the LTAR network. Goals of this project includes understanding how representative LTAR network was of US agriculture and identifying regional areas that could be used for the extrapolation of scientific results. To accomplish this, a task force engaged in first, identifying regional for each of the 18 LTAR sites related to three domains related to USDA’s vision for the sustainable intensification of agriculture. These domains included production (of food, fuel and fiber), environmental impacts, and rural prosperity, resulting in the development or three regional boundary datasets. The task force also focused on selecting indicators that could be summarized using the boundary datasets to provide snapshots of indicators for each LTAR region. Production was summarized using 2017 data on land use; environmental impacts were mapped using data describing agricultural Nitrogen runoff; and rural prosperity was mapped using data on farm income. These indicators, while limited in scope, provided a preliminary characterization of the LTAR network using publicly available datasets. The “production boundaries” layer has been adopted by the LTAR network and is now shown in many of its products. However, results from the regionalization effort have far-reaching ramifications, from enhancing the allocation of LTAR network level resources and the identification of stakeholders, to the estimation of the effects across broad areas resulting from adoption of new, transformative approaches to agricultural production. This paper describes development and use of the 2018 regional datasets developed by the LTAR Regionalization Project, a precursor to additional research efforts currently ongoing in the LTAR network.

Technical Abstract: The USDA Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network exists to acquire knowledge for sustainable intensification of agroecosystem productivity while simultaneously minimizing or reversing agriculture's adverse environmental impacts. The LTAR network is a partnership of 18 sites nationwide that conduct agroecosystem research at plot, field/pasture, enterprise, and watershed levels. In 2018, it was recognized that the network lacked a coherent spatial framework for cross-site, cross-scale, regional and network-level synthesis of agricultural research. The LTAR Regionalization Project thus began with the charge of identifying agroecoregions for the LTAR network. Goals of this project includes understanding how representative LTAR network was of US agriculture and identifying regional areas that could be used for the extrapolation of scientific results. To accomplish this, a task force engaged in first, identifying regional for each of the 18 LTAR sites related to three domains related to USDA’s vision for the sustainable intensification of agriculture. These domains included production (of food, fuel and fiber), environmental impacts, and rural prosperity, resulting in the development or three regional boundary datasets. The task force also focused on selecting indicators that could be summarized using the boundary datasets to provide snapshots of indicators for each LTAR region. Production was summarized using 2017 data on land use; environmental impacts were mapped using data describing agricultural Nitrogen runoff; and rural prosperity was mapped using data on farm income. These indicators, while limited in scope, provided a preliminary characterization of the LTAR network using publicly available datasets. The “production boundaries” layer has been adopted by the LTAR network and is now shown in many of its products. However, results from the regionalization effort have far-reaching ramifications, from enhancing the allocation of LTAR network level resources and the identification of stakeholders, to the estimation of the effects across broad areas resulting from adoption of new, transformative approaches to agricultural production. This paper describes development and use of the 2018 regional datasets developed by the LTAR Regionalization Project, a precursor to additional research efforts currently ongoing in the LTAR network.