Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 623–635 | Cite as

Agroecosystem health, agroecosystem resilience, and food security

  • Casey W. Hoy


This paper lays out the relationships between three mutually reinforcing concepts associated with agroecosystems: (1) agroecosystem health, the extent to which an agroecosystem can meet human needs for all of its residents over time; (2) resilience, the capacity of a system to adapt, reorganize, and maintain key functions in the face of turbulent and unpredictable change in its environment; (3) food security, sufficient quantity and quality of food for everyone at all times. Agroecosystem health has been defined by a number of properties including the following: stability, sustainability, equitability, productivity, and autonomy, each in the context of specific spatial and temporal scales. Indicators that characterize biophysical and social conditions including soil health, biodiversity, topography, farm economics, land economics, and social organization can be combined using analytical hierarchy process to map agroecosystem health across a landscape. The resulting map may provide incentive and guidance for improving the conditions underlying agroecosystem health. Resilience and agroecosystem health overlap largely because both rely on diversity, in biological and physical as well as human cultural, social, and economic terms. The Agroecosystems Management Program at The Ohio State University has approached research and outreach to improve agroecosystem health, resilience, and food security by encouraging self-organizing social networks for economic development around local and regional agricultural supply chains, encouraging farm enterprise diversity at a wider range of farming scales, and conducting research to monitor and estimate the benefits of such diversification. Social media tools have been explored for connecting entrepreneurs at the planning stage, with the ultimate goal of improving the economic support for more diversified enterprises in agroecosystems. Although challenging, such adaptive management experiments may create and encourage new opportunities for managing agroecosystem health, and with it, resilient food production and security.


Biodiversity Crop diversity Enterprise diversity Entrepreneurship Self-organization Sustainable agriculture 



I thank the many colleagues, students, and partners associated with the Agroecosystems Management Program of The Ohio State University who have helped to shape the ideas and approaches described in this paper. Thanks to Trevor Havelka for the technical support with the agroecosystem health index calculations and map and to Ben Kerrick and Liz Kolbe for the permission to include figures from their MS Theses. I appreciate helpful reviews of manuscript drafts by Robert Dyball, Michelle Miller, Sarah Rotz, Hannah Whitehead, Matt Porter, Briana Hoy-Skubik, and three anonymous reviewers. Research described in this paper was supported by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crops Research Initiative Grant No. 2008-51180-19578, as well as state and federal funds appropriated to the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.


  1. Altieri MA (1999) The ecological role of biodiversity in agroecosystems. Agric, Ecosys Environ 74:19–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beuchelt T, Virchow D (2012) Food sovereignty or the human right to adequate food: which concept serves better as international development policy for global hunger and poverty reduction? Agric Human Values 29:259–73. doi: 10.1007/s10460-012-9355-0
  3. Biggs R, Schlüter M, Biggs D, Bohensky E, BurnSilver S, Cundill G, Dakos V, Daw T, Evans L, Kotschy K, Leitch A, Meek C, Quinlan A, Raudsepp-Hearne C, Robards M, Schoon M, Schultz L, West P (2012) Toward principles for enhancing the resilience of ecosystem services. Annu Rev Environ Resour 37:421–448CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boody G, Vondracek B, Andow DA, Krinke M, Westra J, Zimmerman J, Welle P (2005) Multifunctional agriculture in the United States. Bioscience 55:27–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cohen B (2006) Sustainable valley entrepreneurial ecosystems. Bus Strateg Environ 15:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coleman-Jensen A, Gregory C, Singh A (2014) Household food security in the United States in 2013. In: ERR-173. U.S. Depr Agric, Econ Res ServGoogle Scholar
  7. Conway G (1987) The properties of agroecosystems. Agric Syst 24:95–117. doi: 10.1016/0308-521X(87)90056-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Davis A, Hill J, Chase C, Johanns A, Liebman M (2012) Increasing cropping system diversity balances productivity, profitability and environmental health. PLoS One 7:e47149. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047149 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Edelman M, Weis T, Baviskar A, Borras S, Holt-Giménez E, Kandiyoti D, Wolford W (2014) Introduction: critical perspectives on food sovereignty. J Peasant Stud 41:911–931. doi: 10.1080/03066150.2014.963568
  10. FAO, IFAD, WFP (2014) The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014. Strengthening the enabling environment for food security and nutrition. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  11. Goland C, Bauer S (2004) When the apple falls close to the tree: local food systems and the preservation of diversity. Renew Agric Food Syst 9:228–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gomez-Limon J, Sanchez-Fernandez G (2010) Empirical evaluation of agricultural sustainability using composite indicators. Ecol Econ 69:1062–1075. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2009.11.027 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gunderson LH, Holling CS (2002) Panarchy: understanding transformations in human and natural systems. Island Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  14. Hajjar R, Jarvis D, Gemmill-Herren B (2008) The utility of crop genetic diversity in maintaining ecosystem services. Agric Ecosyst Environ 123:261–270. doi: 10.1016/j.agee.2007.08.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hoy C (2009) Pesticide resistance management. In: Radcliffe E, Hutchison W (eds) Integrated pest management. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, Pp, pp. 192–204Google Scholar
  16. Hoy C, Bosserman S, MacDonald R (2012) Social networks, ecological frameworks, and local economies. In: Reid N, Gatrell J, Ross P (eds) Local food geographies: concepts, spatial context, and local practices. Sage, Thousand Oaks, pp. 29–54Google Scholar
  17. Iansiti M, Levien R (2004) Strategy as ecology. Harv Bus Rev 82:68–78Google Scholar
  18. Kerrick B (2013) Borrowed ground: evaluating the potential role of usufruct in neighborhood-scale foodsheds. The Ohio State University, MS ThesisGoogle Scholar
  19. Kolbe E (2013) Visualizing and quantifying a normative scenario for agriculture in Northeast Ohio. The Ohio State University, MS ThesisGoogle Scholar
  20. Kuhnlein, H (2014) How ethnobiology can contribute to food security. J Ethnobiol 34:12–27. doi: 10.2993/0278-0771-34.1.12
  21. Levin S (1998) Ecosystems and the biosphere as complex adaptive systems. Ecosyst 1:431–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lin B (2011) Resilience in agriculture through crop diversification: adaptive management for environmental change. Bioscience 61:183–193. doi: 10.1525/bio.2011.61.3.4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. López-Ridaura S, Masera O, Astier M (2002) Evaluating the sustainability of complex socio-environmental systems, the MESMIS framework. Ecol Indic 2:135–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Marten G (1988) Productivity, stability, sustainability, equitability and autonomy as properties for agroecosystem assessment. Agric Syst 26:291–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mediene S, Valantin-Morison M, Sarthou J, de Tourdonnet S, Gosme M, Bertrand M, Dore T (2011) Agroecosystem management and biotic interactions: a review. Agron Sustain Dev 31:491–514. doi: 10.1007/s13593-011-0009-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Neck H, Meyer D, Cohen B, Corbett A (2004) An entrepreneurial system view of new venture creation. J Small Bus Mgmt 42:190–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Peters C, Bills N, Lembo A, Wilkins J, Fick G (2009) Mapping potential foodsheds in New York state: a spatial model for evaluating the capacity to localize food production. Renew Agr Food Syst 24:72–84. doi: 10.1017/S1742170508002457
  28. Rao N, Rogers P (2006) Assessment of agricultural sustainability. Curr Sci (00113891) 91:438–448Google Scholar
  29. Saaty T (1980) The analytic hierarchy process: planning, priority setting and resource allocation. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  30. Saaty T (2000) Fundamentals of decision making and priority theory with the Analytic Hierarchy Process. RWS Publications, PittsburgGoogle Scholar
  31. Vadrevu K, Cardina J, Hitzhusen F, Bayoh I, Moore R, Parker J, Stinner B, Stinner D, Hoy C (2008) Case study of an integrated framework for quantifying agroecosystem health. Ecosyst 11:283–306. doi: 10.1007/s10021-007-9122-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Agroecosystems Management Program, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development CenterThe Ohio State UniversityWoosterUSA

Personalised recommendations