Managing Food Production Systems for Resilience

Managing food production systems on a sustainable basis is one of the most critical challenges for the future of humanity, for the obvious reason that people cannot survive without food. Ecosystem health is both a “means” and an “ends” to resilient crop and animal production. Being fundamentally dependent on the world’s atmosphere, soils, freshwater and genetic resources, these systems are among the most essential ecosystem services on the planet. They are also the largest global consumers of land and water, the greatest threats to biodiversity through habitat change and invasive species, significant sources of air and water pollution in many locations, and major determinants of biogeochemical change from local to global scales (Vitousek et al. 1997, Matson et al 1997, Naylor 2000, Smil 2000). The inherent interplay between human welfare, food production, and the state of the world’s natural resources underscores the need to manage these systems for resilience—to anticipate change and shape it in ways that lead to the long-run health of human populations, ecosystems, and environmental quality.