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An integrated social and ecological modeling framework—impacts of agricultural conservation practices on water quality

Irem Daloğlu, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan
Joan Iverson Nassauer, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan
Rick Riolo, Center for the Studies of Complex Systems, University of Michigan
Donald Scavia, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan; Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, University of Michigan


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We present a modeling framework that synthesizes social, economic, and ecological aspects of landscape change to evaluate how different agricultural policy and land tenure scenarios and land management preferences affect landscape pattern and downstream water quality. We linked a stylized agent-based model (ABM) of farmers’ conservation practice adoption decisions with a water quality model, the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), to simulate the water quality effects of changing land tenure dynamics and different policies for crop revenue insurance in lieu of commodity payments over 41 years (1970–2010) for a predominantly agricultural watershed of Lake Erie. Results show that non-operator owner involvement in land management decisions yields the highest reduction in sediment and nutrient loads, and crop revenue insurance leads to more homogeneous farmer decisions and a slight increase in sediment and nutrient loads unless cross compliance with expanded conservation requirements is implemented.

Key words

ABM; agricultural policy; agriculture; conservation practice; integrated modeling; SWAT; water quality

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087