Exploring environmental security in agroecosystems: interactions between farmers' mindscape and landscape

Marzall, Katia
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University of Guelph

This thesis explores a framework to observe environmental security, with application to agroecosystems. It discusses possible determinants of agroecosystems environmental security and argues for the centrality of farmers' attitudes and motivations in the definition of the interaction with their environment, influencing ecosystems structure and functions, and hence the sustainability of the agroecosystem. Environmental security is a current concern of human society, as well as an outcome of the awareness of the influence humans have on the sustainability of their ecosystems. In the agricultural context, the concern is twofold: the high dependence of and the strong influence on environmental conditions, hence security. Environmental security of agroecosystems is central for the promotion of the sustainability of rural communities, influencing environmental, social and economic aspects. The complexity of ecosystems structure and processes, as well as its intrinsic uncertainty, only increases the challenge to find effective approaches to tackle environmental security. The methodology proposed considers the system's resilience, integrating the analysis of the agroecosystems landscape and mindscape. Resilience, in this thesis, considers the capacity of a system to continue to evolve in its dynamic life cycle, in spite of external stresses. The major feature of a resilient system, then, is to have options, to be able to perceive these options, and to make the best choice possible. Landscape represents the actual security of the system, considering ecological resilience: biodiversity, soil and water quality and mosaic connectivity. Mindscape considers the social resilience of the system, involving mainly the capacity to ask 'what if ...?' and 'what then...?' These aspects were observed and analyzed in a rural community in South Brazil exploring the feasibility of the methodology. The outcomes highlight the possibility of combining several components and the importance of a complex approach to the environmental issue, if actions need to be undertaken to maintain or promote environmental security.

Environmental Security, Agroecosystems, Farmers' mindscape, Landscape, Sustainability