The Prairie Model

Natural grassland ecosystems may represent our best benchmarks for sustainability. Prairies (1) protect the soil from erosion, (2) provide their own nitrogen fertility requirements through the activities of both free-living and symbiotic nitrogen-fixing organisms, (3) avoid devastation by weedy invaders, insect pests, and plant diseases, and (4) run on sunlight and available precipitation (Table 1).

The vegetation structure of prairies has two important general characteristics that contribute to sustainability: the perennial plant growth habit and diversity. Prairies are composed primarily of herbaceous perennial plants growing in diverse arrays.

The perennial roots and canopies of prairie plants provide many benefits. These include (1) topsoil protection from wind and water erosion, (2) improved soil quality

Table 1 Comparison between Conventional, Industrial

Agricultural Systems and Native Prairie Ecosystems for Some Factors that Contribute to Sustainability

Table 1 Comparison between Conventional, Industrial

Agricultural Systems and Native Prairie Ecosystems for Some Factors that Contribute to Sustainability

Factor

Industrial Agriculture

Native Prairie

Fragility

High

Low

Resilience

Low

High

Biodiversity

Low

High

Potential for nutrient loss

High

Low

Connectance (biotic

Low

High

interdependence)

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment