Date of Award

2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Natural Resources

First Advisor

Gillian Galford

Abstract

Harmonizing biological diversity and crop production is a major goal towards building more sustainable food systems. Soil invertebrates are diverse and abundant organisms in agriculture, but relatively little is known about their benefits or how agricultural management impacts them. In this dissertation, I dig into the complex interactions between agricultural land use and soil invertebrate biodiversity to better inform farmer decision-making. I find that soil invertebrate communities have major potential contributions to agroecosystems (Chapter 2) and are shaped heavily by agricultural land use (Chapters 3, 4), but remain too uncertain to contribute to farmers’ management choices (Chapter 5). First, I identified four main mechanisms by which soil invertebrates contribute to carbon cycling through a review of over 600 articles. I linked these mechanisms to agriculturally-relevant ecosystem services such as climate regulation, pest control, and crop and livestock production (Chapter 2). I then studied the novel perennial crop, milkweed, in comparison to other common New England land uses and found that milkweed hosts taxonomically and functionally diverse arthropod communities (Chapter 3). Testing an emerging agricultural practice for weed suppression, tarping (placing plastic sheets over crop beds), I found that tarps caused an immediate negative effect on arthropods. Recovery of arthropods varied after tarp removal, though many groups recovered within 3-5 weeks (Chapter 4). Finally, I sought to more broadly understand the complex tradeoffs of tarping using mixed methods and participatory action research. In interviews, farmers expressed that they valued soil biodiversity, but, apart from pest species and earthworms, had limited knowledge of these communities on their farms (Chapter 5). This dissertation expands knowledge on soil invertebrate diversity in agriculture, but highlights that considerable work is needed to raise awareness of this group and promote their inclusion in decision-making.

Language

en

Number of Pages

266 p.

Available for download on Saturday, March 23, 2024

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