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Sustainability 2017, 9(6), 970; doi:10.3390/su9060970

Environmental Sustainability of Agriculture Stressed by Changing Extremes of Drought and Excess Moisture: A Conceptual Review

1
Department of Geography and Planning, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5A8, Canada
2
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5A8, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Iain Gordon
Received: 14 February 2017 / Revised: 4 May 2017 / Accepted: 29 May 2017 / Published: 6 June 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Agricultural and Climate Change)
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Abstract

As the climate changes, the effects of agriculture on the environment may change. In the future, an increasing frequency of climate extremes, such as droughts, heat waves, and excess moisture, is expected. Past research on the interaction between environment and resources has focused on climate change effects on various sectors, including agricultural production (especially crop production), but research on the effects of climate change using agri-environmental indicators (AEI) of environmental sustainability of agriculture is limited. The aim of this paper was to begin to address this knowledge gap by exploring the effects of future drought and excess moisture on environmental sustainability of agriculture. Methods included the use of a conceptual framework, literature reviews, and an examination of the climate sensitivities of the AEI models. The AEIs assessed were those for the themes of soil and water quality, and farmland management as developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Additional indicators included one for desertification and another for water supply and demand. The study area was the agricultural region of the Canadian Prairie Provinces. We found that the performance of several indicators would likely decrease in a warming climate with more extremes. These indicators with declining performances included risks for soil erosion, soil salinization, desertification, water quality and quantity, and soil contamination. Preliminary trends of other indicators such as farmland management were not clear. AEIs are important tools for measuring climate impacts on the environmental sustainability of agriculture. They also indicate the success of adaptation measures and suggest areas of operational and policy development. Therefore, continued reporting and enhancement of these indicators is recommended. View Full-Text
Keywords: environmental sustainability; agricultural sustainability; environmental indicators; climate change; climate extremes; drought; excess moisture; Canadian Prairie Provinces environmental sustainability; agricultural sustainability; environmental indicators; climate change; climate extremes; drought; excess moisture; Canadian Prairie Provinces
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Wheaton, E.; Kulshreshtha, S. Environmental Sustainability of Agriculture Stressed by Changing Extremes of Drought and Excess Moisture: A Conceptual Review. Sustainability 2017, 9, 970.

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