From cultural to supporting ecosystem services, the value of shelterbelts to prairie agriculture, Canada
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SubjectEcosytem Services; Landscape conservation practice; Shelterbelt; Socio-cultural well-being; Socio-ecological system; Soil health
Shelterbelts were established in the Canadian Prairies as a means to protect soil from wind erosion. Knowledge gaps remain about shelterbelts' ecosystem services to the agro-landscape, hence hiding farmers' trade-offs in a changing agriculture. This research first investigated shelterbelts' effect on soil biological activity and fertility. Soil samples were collected in September 2012 from sheltered and non-sheltered fields in the Rural Municipality of Stanley, Manitoba. Results showed that shelterbelts promote higher soil biological activity, potentially correlated to the enhanced organic matter and micro-climate adjacent to shelterbelts. A survey was then conducted to explore shelterbelts' cultural services to the local community. Results indicated that while shelterbelts were perceived to significantly benefit community well-being, they were mainly recognised for agricultural functions. We conclude that shelterbelts are a significant element of both supporting and cultural ecosystem services, contributing to the prairie agro-system resilience. Further research and quantification of shelterbelts' socio-ecological services is recommended.
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