Method for comparative analysis of agricultural systems
Current economic and social structures increase the distance between humans and the environment. This increased distance is a main obstacle to achieving significant progress toward sustainable agricultural systems. In order to raise public consciousness about sustainability issues, educational tools and methods that are able to clearly communicate human dependence on ecosystem services are needed. The ecological footprint is an educational tool that estimates human appropriation of ecosystem services in terms of land area required to provide such services. Estimates of ecosystem appropriation not only include direct land use, but also land required to supply energy for direct use and embodied in system inputs; land areas needed for waste assimilation are also estimated. Methods to apply the ecological footprint to row crop production systems are presented. These methods are applied on a state level to Iowa corn and soybean production for the years 1987, 1992, and 1997.