One of the many practices that benefit the climate and the productivity of a farm is the protection and enhancement of biodiversity. Theresa Loewen, a Master of Science graduate from UBC Okanagan specializing in Agroecology, studied how agroecological practices can be integrated into land management strategies. While mapping ecosystem services on agricultural lands in the Central Okanagan, Loewen worked with landowners to support them in implementing agroecological practices. Agroecology is an all-encompassing approach, taking into consideration the scientific, practical, and social aspects of land management. She says, “It’s about how we can integrate the values of nature and the economics of agriculture, and understand how we can best support landowners in implementing the practices that not only benefit the environment but can benefit agriculture too.”
Many orchards are adjacent to natural ecosystems. It is crucial, for both farmers and the climate, to retain the functionality of those ecosystems as much as possible. Loewen gives examples like, “Protecting and enhancing ecosystems where they might have been previously degraded by agriculture, for example, restoration of those areas to maintain their natural function and connectivity to the landscape.” She continues, “It’s really about working with the landscape and maintaining the functionality as an agro-ecosystem.”
Wetlands increase insect activity, provide active pollinators for fruit trees, increase nutrients around crops, and balance out the natural landscape to aid in pest control.
A challenge for many orchardists is fencing, a strategy to keep wildlife away from productive fruit trees. Loewen suggests a solution is to, “Create corridors for animals to pass through, especially if you need high deer fencing which can be prohibitive.” Corridors could be natural, such as hedgerows, or directive fencing to allow wildlife movement through the farm. This strategy allows farmers to protect their crops while maintaining connectivity for wildlife. In Loewen’s experience, many farmers who have problem wildlife, like deers and bears, will often account for the loss of part of their crop by allowing areas where those animals can feed. She says, “They are still getting what they want but the rest of the crop remains protected.”
Wetlands are a common natural ecosystem and are a problematic element for some orchardists because they can limit how much area is farmed. Though wetlands and streams may prohibit areas from being farmed, they offer a variety of services to farmers such as flood control, improved water quality, and increased carbon sequestration. Wetlands increase insect activity, provide active pollinators for fruit trees, increase nutrients around crops, and balance out the natural landscape to aid in pest control. Loewen says, “We want to encourage farmers to see the benefits of [wetlands] and work with them rather than eliminate them.”