Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date

2022

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Natural Resource Management

First Advisor

Steven R. Chipps

Second Advisor

Jonathan G. Lundgren

Keywords

biodiversity, biological control, conservation, endangered, grassland, pollination

Abstract

Conventional agricultural practices can have unintended consequences on the environment and wildlife. Insects and birds are declining at rapid rates around the world, and the current conventional agricultural paradigm is a major driver through habitat loss and the intensification of production. Invertebrates in agroecosystems provide services to both farmers and the rest of society. Regenerative systems may promote the functioning of an agroecosystem by influencing invertebrate abundance, diversity, and ecosystem services and mitigate bird and insect declines through conservation practices that increase soil health, reduce disturbances, and increase biological diversity. Here I address knowledge gaps of the effects of regenerative agriculture on two beneficial and declining wildlife groups and the ecosystem services they provide. Foliar invertebrate, predator, and pollinator communities and the insect-provided ecosystem services of nutrient cycling, weed seed granivory, predation, and pollination were evaluated in the context of a regenerative vs conventional cropping system. We also examined the effect of regenerative agriculture on the bird community and their prey source relative to conventional farms. Insects and birds were identified to species and grouped into feeding and habitat categories. The fields were classified as regenerative or conventional by the number of regenerative practices that were employed during that year. Foliar invertebrate diversity, predator abundance, and pollinator abundance and species richness were increased in regenerative fields. Nutrient cycling increased as foliar insect abundance increased. The ecosystem services of predation and pollination were enhanced by regenerative practices. No obvious relationships were found regarding the insect community and insectivorous birds. The water-associated, insectivorous, and overall bird community were negatively influenced by regenerative practices. However, grassland bird and Canadian-listed threatened and endangered bird species were positively influenced, with significantly greater abundances in regenerative fields. The farming practices that are essential to a regenerative system have a positive impact on beneficial insects and North America’s most vulnerable birds. Increased abundance and diversity and enhanced ecosystem services may make farms more resilient and functional in an agriculturally intensive landscape.

Number of Pages

176

Publisher

South Dakota State University

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Rights Statement

In Copyright