Creating, Modeling and Sharing Insights from Resilient Agriculture and Forestry Systems

Creating, Modeling and Sharing Insights from Resilient Agriculture and Forestry Systems

Alex Score
Time Slot: 
Concurrent Sessions 3

Presentations in this wide-ranging session include case studies on agriculture and forestry resilience from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, new computational methods and frameworks to analyze food system resilience (including within cities), and a new virtual demonstration tool that allows farmers and land owners to share innovative adaptation practices. Food system resilience is discussed within both urban and rural contexts. The information that will be shared will be relevant to policymakers and practitioners as well as academics.


Developing an Urban Food System Resilience Framework to Assess Vulnerabilities to Extreme Weather Events
Kimberly Zeuli, Initiative for a Competitive Inner City
  • Austin Nijhuis, Initiative for a Competitive Inner City
  • Zachary Gerson-Nieder, Initiative for a Competitive Inner City
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As cities prepare for the threats of climate change and extreme weather events, they often overlook food systems. Yet, significant food supply disruptions caused by hurricane flooding in New Orleans in 2005 and in the Caribbean and Florida in 2017 suggest that this is a critical oversight. Recently, a vanguard of global cities have begun to focus on the resilience of their food systems to climate change and extreme weather events. This paper presents a framework, developed from food system theory and practice, to analyze urban food system resilience to extreme weather events. Since almost all food consumed in cities is produced outside of urban areas, the framework focuses on three food system components—food processing, food distribution and food access—and critical supporting infrastructure. The framework emphasizes equitable resilience and, therefore, considers neighborhood-level vulnerabilities to identify variances in impact for specific areas (and populations) within a city. The authors applied this framework to assess the resilience of the city of Toronto’s food system to three extreme weather events: flooding from significant rain, an extended heat wave, and a winter ice storm. The assessment included an analysis of public and proprietary data on food systems and supporting infrastructure, interviews with over 40 individuals, and a facilitated workshop with 23 stakeholders representing various aspects of Toronto’s food system. Results suggest that urban food systems have both shared vulnerabilities and unique weaknesses that are a function of differences in a city’s food system and exposure to extreme weather event risks.

Lessons from Ridge To Reefs’ efforts supporting small farmers in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria
Phal Mantha, Ridge to Reefs
  • Paul Edward Sturm, Ridge to Reefs
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In order to truly be resilient in the face of changing climates, extreme weather events, and significantly increased pressures on food, water, energy, and critical infrastructure, we need to adapt our systems to known and anticipated threats. Food security is a key area that needs to be further examined through this lens. This presentation will examine strategies and actions developed to protect and insulate food systems (and related infrastructure) from known and anticipated stressors. The focus of the presentation will be on the selection and utilization of appropriate technologies and adaptation strategies to increase resilience and food security on islands. Case studies and details from Ridge To Reefs’ efforts to support small farms and other organizations in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria will be covered. We will discuss observations and practical experiences from the utilization of technologies such as - 1) rainwater catchment, storage, and purification 2) mobile and stationary solar powered refrigerated storage systems 3) production of high quality organic fertilizer from local waste streams 4) low cost controlled environment production and other efficiency multiplying methods. These technologies will be discussed as adaptation strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change and extreme events and providing a model for long term resilience. We will also discuss strategies to support cycles of adaption and mitigation in order drive efficiency and innovation.

Touring Climate-Informed Practices in Agriculture and Forestry ‘As If You Were There’
Erin D Lane, USDA Forest Service
  • Karrah Kwasnik, University of New Hampshire
  • Jennifer Volk, University of Delaware
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Climate change is heralding greater variation and uncertainty for farmers and land managers, and many have already found ways to adapt. The ability to share these experiences with others is imperative to cultivating new and/or effective techniques to reduce risks while also taking advantage of our new climate conditions. As a demonstration tool, virtual field tours offer exciting potential for spreading messages. In partnership with University of Delaware and other USDA and land grant collaborators, the USDA Northeast Climate Hub produced and launched a virtual demonstration network, ‘As If You Were There.’ This project uses immersive 360o technology and educational storytelling to feature key climate adaptation practices across working farms and forests within the Northeast. Through interactive 360o photography, users can embark into virtual field tours from their own computer or mobile devices. From here, they can access embedded video interviews, information, and resources that show how others are experiencing and dealing with increasing rainfall intensity, extended growing seasons, invasive pests, and other weather and climate risks. Throughout the tours, managers and researcher demonstrate solutions for adapting to climate change. It is our hope that these virtual field tours will collectively generate greater interest and understanding about the climate change issues facing agriculture and forestry, as well as, an appreciation for those addressing them. Used as a learning tool, the tours can increase overall adoption of climate-informed practices.

Modeling Change: A Computational Social Science Approach to Climate Change Adaptation in Agriculture
Karen D Buchsbaum, Antioch University New England
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One of the challenges in current food systems and climate research is to understand and demonstrate how adaptation and decision-making function as processes at both the individual and institutional levels, and the wider implications of such processes for resilience.

Computational social science has emerged as a powerful and underutilized approach for studying change in complex socio-ecological systems. Computational methods like social network analysis (SNA) and agent based modeling (ABM) can provide researchers and policymakers with the tools to better understand nonequilibrium dynamics and social processes like learning, decision-making and adaptation across multiple scales of analysis.

The power of the computational approach lies within its ability to connect individual and micro- level behaviors with macro-level phenomena. It can help reveal hidden structures and show us how properties of a system emerge. Unlike equation-based models, which tell us which variables are related, computational models offer deeper explanations as to how collective effects of those variables emerge in the data.

In this presentation I will provide participants with an overview of computational methods for improving climate change adaptation and food systems research, examples of how these innovative tools are being implemented, and future directions for research.

While there is no model or method sophisticated enough to predict how climate change will affect agriculture, Computational Social Science can be integrated with other approaches, like climate scenarios and socio-economic modeling, providing researchers and policymakers with a framework that can help identify cognitive and systemic barriers to agricultural adaptation across scales and under different conditions.