Prairie strips improve biodiversity and the delivery of multiple ecosystem services from corn–soybean croplands

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2017-10-01
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Liebman, Matt
James, David
Kolka, Randall
Tomer, Mark
Asbjornsen, Heidi
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Niemi, Jarad
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O'Neal, Matthew
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Natural Resource Ecology and Management
The Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management is dedicated to the understanding, effective management, and sustainable use of our renewable natural resources through the land-grant missions of teaching, research, and extension.
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Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
The Leopold Center is a research and education center on the campus of Iowa State University created to identify and reduce negative environmental and social impacts of farming and develop new ways to farm profitably while conserving natural resources.
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Agronomy

The Department of Agronomy seeks to teach the study of the farm-field, its crops, and its science and management. It originally consisted of three sub-departments to do this: Soils, Farm-Crops, and Agricultural Engineering (which became its own department in 1907). Today, the department teaches crop sciences and breeding, soil sciences, meteorology, agroecology, and biotechnology.

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The Department of Agronomy was formed in 1902. From 1917 to 1935 it was known as the Department of Farm Crops and Soils.

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1902–present

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  • Department of Farm Crops and Soils (1917–1935)

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Statistics
As leaders in statistical research, collaboration, and education, the Department of Statistics at Iowa State University offers students an education like no other. We are committed to our mission of developing and applying statistical methods, and proud of our award-winning students and faculty.
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Abstract

Loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services from agricultural lands remain important challenges in the United States despite decades of spending on natural resource management. To date, conservation investment has emphasized engineering practices or vegetative strategies centered on monocultural plantings of nonnative plants, largely excluding native species from cropland. In a catchment-scale experiment, we quantified the multiple effects of integrating strips of native prairie species amid corn and soybean crops, with prairie strips arranged to arrest run-off on slopes. Replacing 10% of cropland with prairie strips increased biodiversity and ecosystem services with minimal impacts on crop production. Compared with catchments containing only crops, integrating prairie strips into cropland led to greater catchment-level insect taxa richness (2.6-fold), pollinator abundance (3.5-fold), native bird species richness (2.1-fold), and abundance of bird species of greatest conservation need (2.1-fold). Use of prairie strips also reduced total water runoff from catchments by 37%, resulting in retention of 20 times more soil and 4.3 times more phosphorus. Corn and soybean yields for catchments with prairie strips decreased only by the amount of the area taken out of crop production. Social survey results indicated demand among both farming and nonfarming populations for the environmental outcomes produced by prairie strips. If federal and state policies were aligned to promote prairie strips, the practice would be applicable to 3.9 million ha of cropland in Iowa alone.

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This article is published as Schulte, Lisa A., Jarad Niemi, Matthew J. Helmers, Matt Liebman, J. Gordon Arbuckle, David E. James, Randall K. Kolka et al. "Prairie strips improve biodiversity and the delivery of multiple ecosystem services from corn–soybean croplands." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017): 201620229. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1620229114. Posted with permission.

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