Ecosystem Services in Working Lands: US Northeast

West Virginia

Part 5: Conclusions and Recommendations In the coming decades, the production of material goods from working landscapes in the U.S. Northeast will be subject to increasing impacts of climate change, which will further undermine working lands production in a region already suffering from a declining working landbase and decreasing regional self-reliance (Griffin et al. 2015). In such a context, the role of Cooperative Extension and Agricultural Experiment Stations will become even more essential in helping landowners adopt practices on working lands in ways that not only help them to navigate rising uncertainty, but also to help mitigate these impacts and sustain their livelihoods. As research indicates “[a]gricultural extension services, both public and private, have been shown to have a positive impact on program adoption rates; Connecting these programmes with national exte nsion systems can result in a significant change in agricultural sustainability” (Piñeiro et al. 2020). The following discussion grounds this assessment to parallel conversations and industry trends that affect the provisioning of ecosystem services on working lands in the U.S. Northeast. The following section details these findings in light of the four goals of this research project, namely:

• Increase farm profitability and sustainability. • Position agriculture as a primary leader in mitigating climate change. • Build resiliency of rural and urban communities. • Increase the appeal of agricultural professions to a wide range of young people.

Conclusion 1: Producers and land managers operate according to the "safety-first" principle and are often risk-averse. In order to be successful, practices and programs must sufficiently and sustainably offset these risks in concrete ways.

Recommendation 1.1

Balance long-term ecological considerations with short-term economic returns by avoiding tradeoffs and diversifying direct and indirect incentives.

Recommendation 1.2

Focus on programs that promote ecosystem service provisioning at smaller-scales (e.g. the household, farm, or community) to illustrate value, ensure long-term sustainability and maintain local stakeholder buy-in.

Conclusion 2: Programs are structured to either incentivize a single ecosystem service or multiple layered services. There are strengths and weaknesses to either approach. Project design should account for those strengths and weaknesses as well as the potential to scale practices from individual farms to multifunctional landscapes.

Recommendation 2.1

Conduct an expert-panel of the strategic ecosystem services priorities for the region and compare to IPBES priorities for the Americas to assess gaps and opportunities for cross-scalar synergies.

Recommendation 2.2

Ecosystem service provisioning programs are unequally accessible and the benefits that derive from them unequally felt and experienced based on existing social and economic disparities. It is important to consider not only the impacts of programs on ecosystem services, but also their impacts on equity.

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