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The Value of Native Ecosystems

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Presentation on theme: "The Value of Native Ecosystems"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Value of Native Ecosystems

2 Ecosystem Services Ecosystem services are benefits that humans need to maintain a good quality of life. Clean waters Waster removal & decomposition Nutrient cycling Crop pollination Ecosystems provide many, many resources & processes that benefit mankind. Humans rely on some of these benefits to maintain our quality of life. These benefits are known as ecosystem services and include products like clean water, removal & decomposition of wastes, nutrient cycling, crop pollination, and many other benefits.

3 Other Benefits of Native Ecosystem
Erosion control Weed control Maintains biodiversity Wildlife habitat Endangered species Beyond ecosystem services & natural beauty, native ecosystems provide many other Benefits: Erosion control - deep and/or fibrous root systems reduce unwanted erosion. Weed control– The use of native plants can reduce the number of weeds and other unwanted plants by outcompeting them for resources. Maintains Biodiversity—maintaining the biodiversity of plants provides food and shelter for a variety of wildlife… Wildlife habitat—& some of the plants & wildlife in native ecosystems are endangered species.

4 Lady Bird Johnson “Our Environmental First Lady”
Lady Bird Johnson was the wife our 36th president, Lyndon B. Johnson, & a native of Texas. She was a vigorous proponent for preserving & restoring native and wild flowers & grasses. She recognized that preserving natural ecosystems provided many more benefits to humans than just a pretty place to look at. As a result of her efforts she is regarded as “Our Environmentalist First Lady” & was even nicknamed the “Johnny Appleseed of Wildflowers”.

5 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
“Sowing the Future, One Seed At a Time.” In 1982 Mrs. Johnson co-founded the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas. The center’s mission is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes, and to teach everyone how these plants are valuable to all of us.

6 Estimating Ecosystem Value
It is very difficult to put a price on the services & resources that ecosystems provide. Ecological yield—the harvestable products in the ecosystem. Water, wood, fish or game, etc. A price can be based on the price of the natural resources that it yields each year. While centers like Lady Bird Johnson’s Wildflower Center has helped inform the public about the benefits of native ecosystems. It is often difficult to put a price on the services & resources that ecosystems provide us. The simplest way to estimate the value of an ecosystem is to estimate its ecological yield (or the the harvestable products in the ecosystem) such as: water, wood, fish or game. Thus, a price can be estimated for an ecosystem based on the price of natural resources that it yields each year.

7 Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)
Switchgrass is a good example of a “harvestable product” yielded by natural ecosystems. Switchgrass is a native grass in the tallgrass prairies in central North American & is has both conservation & economic value. Range of the Tall Grass Prairies of the U.S.

8 Agricultural Economy Switchgrass is good livestock forage.
It’s demand as an alternative (“green”) energy source has made it a valuable cash crop. As the use of biofuels increases in the U.S., farmers should benefit. Switch grass is valuable in agriculture in several ways:

9 Energy Economy Increase in demand & decrease in supply of fossil fuels has led to higher prices & has negatively affected the global economy. The U.S. is investigating new alternative energy sources that would reduce our dependence on nonrenewable energy sources.

10 Energy Economy We import over 1/3 of our energy. Healthy economies require stable and affordable energy sources. This also increased our interest in alternative energy sources that can be produced in the U.S.

11 Biofuels Biofuels are fuels made from recently living biological material (including plants!). Advantages of Biofuels: Reduce our dependence on imported energy Decrease carbon dioxide emissions Strengthen America's farm economy & create new jobs Although its environmental impact and greenness are being disputed, they can be a transient form of energy needed to act as a buffer while switching our economy from fossil fuel to other cleaner energy sources as solar, wind, hydroelectric, etc.

12 Switchgrass & Biofuels (Panicum virgatum)
The ideal “energy crop” Switch grass is an ideal energy crop: Since biofuels are made from recently living biological material—large, fast-growing crops like switch grass are ideal for converting to biofuels. Switchgrass also long roots that reach deep into the soil for water, and it uses the water very efficiently. And because it is native plant found throughout much of the nation, it can be grown in different climates and growing conditions. They can grow as tall as 10 feet!!!

13 Corn-based Ethanol ~ 2 billion gallons of corn ethanol produced in the U.S. annually. Producing ethanol from corn requires almost as much energy to produce as it yields. Corn is a major food crop—producing ethanol from corn reduces its availability for food and inflate prices. Corn ethanol is currently one of the most popular biofuels being used in the U.S. However, the production of corn ethanol if very inefficient. If we consider the farm equipment used for planting, growing & harvesting the crops, transporting the corn to market to the ethanol plant to a fuel refinery, etc…..producing corn ethanol requires about as much energy to produce as it yields. There are also ethical challenges for using corn for fuels. Since corn is a major food crop, corn-based ethanol could decrease the amount of corn available for food & inflate prices.

14 Advantages of Switchgrass as a Biofuel
It is a native perennial grass that does not have to be replanted annually, is easy to grow, & requires little water. Over one year, one acre of switchgrass can yield up to 11,500 gallons of ethanol. The net energy output of switchgrass is ~20 times better than corn.

15 Advantages of Switchgrass as a Biofuel
Portions that cannot be converted to ethanol can be burned to produce electricity.

16 Advantages of Switchgrass as a Biofuel
There are also environmental benefits for using switchgrass-based fuels including: A native grass, switchgrass is well adapted to its ecosystem. It does not require additional fertilizers or water & is resistant to diseases. The deep, large root systems of native grasses also efficiently replenish the organic layer of soils as they decompose. It provides excellent habitat and nesting ground for birds & animals.

17 Advantages of Switchgrass as a Biofuel
Reduces soil erosion and filters chemicals and sediments from run off of farm fields into water bodies. Large, deep root system increases carbon sequestration both in the plant and below ground. Buffer strips of switchgrass planted along streambanks and around wetlands can both remove soil particles, pesticides, and fertilizer residues from run off before it reaches groundwater or streams while also providing energy. Plants sequester carbon & remove it from the atmosphere. The large, deep root system makes switchgrass a very effective carbon sink.

18 Native Grass Restoration Program
Programs around the U.S. have been established to restore native prairies after generations of farming & grazing have eroded large swaths of soil. Once these lands are restored, these grass lands will benefit humankind & wildlife alike.

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