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Ecosystem properties and principles of living systems as foundation for sustainable agriculture – Critical reviews of environmental assessment tools, key findings and questions from a course process

Ekbladh, G.; Grönlund, E.; Ingemarson, F.; Karlsson, L.; Nilsson, S. and Strid Eriksson, I. (editor): Doherty, S. and Rydberg, T. (Eds.) (2002) Ecosystem properties and principles of living systems as foundation for sustainable agriculture – Critical reviews of environmental assessment tools, key findings and questions from a course process. Ekologiskt lantbruk, no. 32. Centre for Sustainable Agriculture .

[thumbnail of ekolantbruk32.pdf] PDF - English

Document available online at: http://www.cul.slu.se/information/publik/ekolantbruk32.pdf


With increasing demands on limited resources worldwide, there is a growing interest in sustainable patterns of utilisation and production. Ecological agriculture is a response to these concerns.
To assess progress and compliance, standard and comprehensive measures of resource requirements, impacts and agro-ecological health are needed. Assessment tools should also be rapid, standardized, userfriendly, meaningful to public policy and applicable to management. Fully considering these requirements confounds the development of integrated methods.
Currently, there are many methodologies for monitoring performance, each with its own foundations, assumptions, goals, and outcomes, dependent upon agency agenda or academic orientation. Clearly, a concept of sustainability must address biophysical, ecological, economic, and sociocultural foundations.
Assessment indicators and criteria, however, are generally limited, lacking integration, and at times in conflict with one another. A result is that certification criteria, indicators, and assessment methods are not based on a consistent, underlying conceptual framework and often lack a management focus.
Ecosystem properties and principles of living systems, including self-organisation, renewal, embeddedness, emergence and commensurate response provide foundation for sustainability assessments and may be appropriate focal points for critical thinking in an evaluation of current methods and standards. A systems framework may also help facilitate a comprehensive approach and promote a context for meaningful discourse. Without holistic accounts, sustainable progress remains an illdefined concept and an elusive goal.
Our intent, in the work with this report, was to use systems ecology as a pedagogic basis for learning and discussion to:
- Articulate general and common characteristics of living systems.
- Identify principles, properties and patterns inherent in natural ecosystems.
- Use these findings as foci in a dialogue about attributes of sustainability to:
a. develop a model for communicating scientific rationale.
b. critically evaluate environmental assessment tools for application in land-use.
c. propose appropriate criteria for a comprehensive assessment and expanded definition of ecological land use.

EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:Living systems principles, methods, life cycle assessment, Cost Benefit Analysis, Ecological Footprint, Emergy Analysis, Index of Biotic Integrity, Positional Analysis, course, sustainability, Ecological Land Use
Subjects: Knowledge management > Research methodology and philosophy
Farming Systems
Research affiliation: Sweden > Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) > CUL - Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Related Links:http://www.cul.slu.se/information/publik
Deposited By: Fredriksson, Pelle
ID Code:2832
Deposited On:16 Jun 2004
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:29
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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