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International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability

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Ecosystem services, Agricultural productivity


Iowa is a leader in crop and livestock production, but its high productivity has had concomitant negative environmental and societal impacts and large requirements for fossil-fuel-derived inputs. Maintaining agricultural productivity, economic prosperity and environmental integrity will become ever more challenging as the global demand for agricultural products increases and the resources needed become increasingly limited. Here we present four scenarios for Iowa in 2100, based on combinations of differing goals for the economy and differing energy availability. In scenarios focused on high material throughput, environmental degradation and social unrest will increase. In scenarios with a focus on human and environmental welfare, environmental damage will be ameliorated and societal happiness will increase. Movement towards a society focused on human and environmental welfare will require changes in the goals of the economy, whereas no major changes will be needed to maintain focus on high throughput. When energy sources are readily available and inexpensive, the goals of the economy will be more easily met, whereas energy limitations will restrict the options available to agriculture and society. Our scenarios can be used as tools to inform people about choices that must be made to reach more desirable futures for Iowa and similar agricultural regions


This is an Author's Original Manuscript of an article whose final and definitive form, the Version of Record, has been published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability Feb 2012 copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at:



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