Ecosystem Services

Climate Land Leaders Provide Ecosystem Services

Natural area restoration and regenerative agriculture mitigate climate change impacts and provide other “ecosystem services” as well, including improved water quality, reduced erosion, biodiversity and more.

1000 Farms Initiative team at Climate Land Leader Wendy Johnson’s farm

For Climate Land Leaders Wendy Johnson and her husband, Johnny Rafkin, the return of nature is a sweet reward for their hard work planting and maintaining prairie, trees and shrubs and more. “We see insects we’ve never seen before, more amphibians and so many more birds,” Wendy says. “The farm is alive and noisy now! Nature is so resilient.”

Improving soil health is a key component of Climate Land Leaders’ work. Climate Land Leaders take baseline soil measurements on areas where they will implement climate-friendly practices. Through the years, they will be looking for increases in soil organic matter and soil organic carbon. Many Climate Land Leaders have benefitted from one-on-one consultations with Dr. Sharon Weyers, a soil scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well.

Climate Land Leaders are part of various research projects through universities, government and nonprofit organizations that are documenting the ecosystem services their lands are providing. For example, Climate Land Leaders participate in the 1000 Farms Initiative, an ambitious research project that measures soil microbiology, water dynamics, plant communities, invertebrate diversity, bird diversity and habitat, insect communities and more.

Photo by Ruth Rabinowitz

“Organic farmers are on the front lines of climate change. We do not have the same tools as conventional farmers to ‘cover-up’ extreme weather events. It’s why we need to urgently focus on diversity, resiliency and soil health.”

—Matthew Tjoflat Fitzgerald, MN

The journey Mary Damm (IA and IN) has taken to farm ownership is bittersweet. Her beloved friend Dan Specht died in a farm accident in 2013. Mary purchased Dan’s Iowa farm to continue his stewardship of the land. Mary holds a PhD in Biology from Indiana University for research comparing plant diversity and soil carbon and nutrients in native and reconstructed tallgrass prairies in Iowa. She researches plant diversity and productivity and soil carbon, nutrients and biology in her rotationally grazed pastures as part of a larger study on managed cattle grazing and grassland bird (Bobolink) nesting success.

Peg Bouska, Carol Bouska and soil scientist Tiffany LaShae with soil cores at the Bouska family’s Highland Farm (IA)