This book critically examines the idea that the sustainability of agriculture could be improved by mimicking the structure and processes occurring in natural ecosystems. Researchers from around the world present comparative studies of multi-species farming systems, natural ecosystems and conventional agriculture. Case studies from Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and North and South America examine the implications of increasing the complexity of farming systems on water and nutrient cycling, productivity and resilience. Theoretical issues discussed include the role of biodiversity in agriculture, the trade-off between perenniality and productivity, the choice to integrate or segregate production and conservation in an agricultural landscape, and the social and economic challenges to adopting complex farming systems. One section is devoted to the application of this concept in southern Australia, where 15 million hectares of land are expected to be affected by salinity by the middle of the next century unless there is a significant change in agricultural practice.
1. Introduction; E.C. Lefroy, et al.Part 1: Consulting the genius ofplace.2. Developing high seed-yielding perennial polycultures as a mimic of mid-grass prairie; W. Jackson, L. Jackson.3. From genomes to ecosystems to human communities; W. Jackson.Part 2: The ecosystemmimic concept.4. Natural systems as models for the design of sustainable systems of land use; J.J. Ewel.5. How much biodiversity is enough? A.R. Main.6. Moving from descriptive to prescriptive ecology; R.J. Hobbs, S.R. Morton.Part 3: Case studies ofmulti-species systems.7. The dehesa system of southern Spain and Portugal as a natural ecosystem mimic; R. Joffre, et al.8. Multispecies cropping systems in India: Predictions of their productivity, stability, resilience, and ecological sustainability; B.R. Trenbath.9. Why tree-crop interactions in agroforestry appear at odds with tree-grass interactions in tropical savannahs; C.K. Ong,R.R.B. Leakey.10. Can the ecosystem mimic hypotheses be applied to farms in African savannahs? M. van Noordwijk, C.K. Ong.11. Soil community composition in ecosystem processes: Comparing agricultural with natural ecosystems; D.A. Neher.12. The problem of irrigated horticulture: matching the biophysical efficiency with the economic efficiency; R.J. Stirzaker.Part 4: Application of the ecosystem mimicconcept to southern Australian agriculture.13. Towards achieving functional ecosystem mimicry with respect to water cycling in southern Australian agriculture; T.J. Hatton, R.A. Nulsen.14. Nutrient cycling and growth in forest ecosystems of South Western Australia: relevance to agricultural landscapes; P.F. Grierson, M.A. Adams.15. Assessing the performance of woody plants in uptake and utilisation of carbon, water and nutrients; J.S. Pate, T.E. Dawson.16. Agroforestry for water management in the cropping zone of Southern Australia; E.C.Lefroy, R.J. Stirzaker.17. Application of the ecosystem mimic concept to the `species-rich' Banksia woodlands of South Western Australia; J.S. Pate, T.L. Bell.18. Can agricultural management emulate natural ecosystems in recharge control in South Eastern Australia? F.X.Dunnin, et al.19. Designing mimics from incomplete data sets: salmon gum woodland and heathland ecosystems in South Western Australia; R.J.O'Connor, M.H. O'Connor.Part 5: Implications of the mimic concept.20. Social and economic challenges in the development of complex farming systems; D.J. Pannell.21. Can we bring about a perennially peopled and productive countryside? J.B. Passioura.22. What can agriculture learn from natural ecosystems? E.C. Lefroy, et al.