Comparing synthetic and natural grasslands for agricultural production and ecosystem service.

Mike Humphreys, Grace O'Donovan, Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Proceeding (Non-Journal item)

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Abstract

Whilst the concept of ecosystem service is relatively new, the importance and benefits of natural grasslands to the environment has been long established. These complex bio-diverse ecosystems, as well as sustaining rich communities of flora and fauna, provide a range of environmental benefits including water, nutrient, and carbon capture. However, the perpetuity of natural grasslands and their associated benefits are under increased threat from pressures to feed and house our increasing population, urban expansion, and also through climate change. Regular ploughing and re-sowing of grasslands has led to soil erosion, depletion of scarce nutrient resources, pollution of our waterways, and releases of harmful greenhouse gases, the latter in particular exacerbated by livestock agriculture. A response is necessary both to reduce negativee impacts of agriculture on the environment and wherever possible to engineer a positive ecosystem service. The genomic and phenomic diversity available in grass and clover species and further access to novel variants through hybridisation with wild-type relatives with suitable technologies to assist in their selection, provide alternatives to current plant varieties and increased capacity for efficient and ‛climate-smart’ agricultural practice. Holistic approaches to plant breeding can produce varieties that both safeguard agricultural production and provide some valuable ecosystem service.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEGF at 50: the Future of European Grasslands
Subtitle of host publicationGrassland Science in Europe
EditorsAlan Hopkins
PublisherGwasg Gomer | Gomer Press
Pages215-229
Number of pages14
Volume19
ISBN (Print)978-0-9926940-1-2
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014

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