InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Critical Zone Science > Student Materials > Student Materials Unit 7.2
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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Unit 7.2: Agricultural Impacts

Introduction

Humans not only reside in the Critical Zone, they depend upon the land and water to provide sustenance. This unit will examine how humans affect the soil and water resources in the Critical Zone through food production. In this unit, you will:
  • Identify how food is grown in various contexts, such as industrial agriculture, family farms, organic agriculture, community-supported agriculture, and urban gardening
  • Analyze how each of the above types of food production and the practices employed by various individuals and organizations affect soil and water resources
  • Describe the causes that resulted in the Dust Bowl and the social, economic, and environmental impacts that resulted
  • Analyze how current farming practices affect carbon storage in soils
  • List the benefits of ecosystem services to society and describe how a critical zone perspective can help assess these services

Unit 7.2: Food Production and Land Use

Pre-class Readings/Research:

  • Field, J. P., D. D. Breshears, D. J. Law, J. C. Villegas, L. López-Hoffman, P. D. Brooks, J. Chorover, and J. D. Pelletier (2016), Understanding ecosystem services from a geosciences perspective, Eos, 97, doi:10.1029/2016EO043591. This brief article describes some of the benefits society receives from ecosystems and how Critical Zone Science can be used to understand the value of such services at multiple scales.
  • Dust Bowl, Chapter 7 (pages 145-178) in Dirt, the Erosion of Civilization by David R. Montgomery - This chapter describes the causes of the Dust Bowl as well as similar situations that have occurred as a result of human mismanagement of soil resources in other locations.
    • Prepare a 1 page typed (single spaced) summary of the causes and impacts of the Dust Bowl. The report should outline potential ways to address the issues raised in the book chapter. In addition, address the concept of ecosystem services and how society benefits from ecosystems. Fully cite any outside sources.
  • Agricultural techniques research: You will be assigned to research one of the following agricultural enterprises: international agribusiness, industrial agriculture, small/family farm agriculture, community-supported agriculture, organic agriculture, or urban agriculture. Use the worksheet below to outline the characteristics, benefits, and impacts of these various types of agriculture. Results from this research will form the basis for an in-class discussion. Suggested links are listed in the Additional Resources section.

Unit 7.2 (Day 1)

  • Group Discussion - Different Means of Food Production
    • Students assigned the same farming technique will meet in small groups to compare notes from their research. Each group will summarize their findings, focusing on the characteristics, benefits and impacts of the various types of agriculture. Once all groups have reported on what they learned, discussion will focus on how the various farming techniques would impact ecosystem services, connecting back to the role that CZ science can play in understanding and quantifying the value of such services.
  • Activity 7.4: Comparison of Soil Organic Carbon by Land Use
    • Use data from Christina River Basin CZO soils research (below) to compare and contrast bulk density and organic carbon content of two soil profiles, 1) agriculture site and 2) forested site.
      • Plotted data: Soil Carbon Comparison comparison_soil_carbon_soils.docx (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 251kB Jan19 17)
      • Worksheet: Soil Carbon Comparison Comparison of soil carbon in soils by land use (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 18kB Dec26 16)
      • Data: Soil Carbon Comparison (Yoo et al., 2011): Soil Carbon Data (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 9kB Jun2 16)
      • Yoo, K., Junling J., Aufdenkampe A., and Klaminder J. 2011. Rates of soil mixing and associated carbon fluxes in a forest versus tilled agricultural field: Implications for modeling the soil carbon cycle. J. Geophys. Res. 116:G01014. doi: 10.1029/20102JG001304
    • You will work in groups of 2-3 to discuss what this data means but work independently to plot/write up results.
  • Group discussion - Dust Bowl impacts
    • Discussion of the main points from the Montgomery (2008) reading on causes of the Dust Bowl and where and why similar events have occurred globally. Focus on the root causes of the Dust Bowl, especially the role that humans played, using a systems approach to emphasize why conservation measures were or were not implemented. Discuss implications of such actions on ecosystem services and how soil loss could impact both ecosystem services and society and suggest possible solutions to soil loss.
  • Homework:
    • Complete the soil carbon comparison worksheet if not finished in class.

Additional Resources

These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »