In addition to producing food, fuel, fibre, and flowers, farmlands can also provide a range of ecosystem services that benefit the surrounding landscape. But what exactly are these ecosystem services? Learn more below!
An ecosystem service is essentially a positive benefit that an element of an ecosystem can provide to people. These benefits can be large or small, and can be provided by different elements of an ecosystem like plants, animals, and soils!1 Often times, ecosystem services are considered a benefit of natural lands, however farmland can also provide them. Explore some of the ecosystem services that farmland produces:
Water Filtration and Flood Mitigation
As water flows through soil, it may actually help filter the water of pollutants!2 This helps prevent these pollutants from entering the water table, and can help keep drinking water and nearby lakes and rivers clean for human use. Farming practices with constant vegetation (like pastures, hay fields, and cover cropped fields) are able to absorb this water easier and can prevent runoff, allowing for the full ecosystem service to be carried out. This can also slow down the flow of water and encourage the soils to absorb water, which can help mitigate floods and prevent property damage and safety concerns.3
In comparison, urban development can actually create impermeable surfaces that don’t allow water to filter through them, meaning they can increase the risk of flooding, and that water will not filter through the soil before entering the water table.
The potential to sequester carbon in our farmlands is huge, and could make a big difference for the future. When carbon is drawn down from the atmosphere and stored (or sequestered) in soil, it can help in the fight against climate change. Carbon is sequestered in soil this way when plant matter captures carbon and then that plant matter is managed in a way that keeps the carbon in the soil. With the right management practices, farmland could make a big difference, and the more farmland that is permanently protected the more farmland we can put to work for the environment.
The Value of Ecosystem Services on Farmland
And these services aren’t the only ones that farmland can provide. The benefits of farmland aside from the crops it produces are great. It is estimated that in the Greater Golden Horseshoe alone, the ecosystem services provided by farmland are valued at $1.6 billion per year. 5
When we lose farmland, we also lose these valuable ecosystem services.