Coupled Natural Human SystemsIn the U.S. Midwest, about eighty-three percent of the agricultural landscape is devoted to a corn-soybean rotation with the primary goal of producing sufficient food, feed, and fiber for a growing population. Yet as a human enterprise, agriculture is fundamentally a social endeavor, shaped by human values, market forces, and socioeconomic policies. In that context, the Midwestern corn-soybean ecosystem should not be limited to the role of a food-feed-fiber provider, but it should also contribute to a broader spectrum of environmental, health, and economic services such as improved air, soil, and water quality, as well as agro-technological innovations, like genetically modified crops and improved conservation practices, and alternative energy sources, including biofuels. In Iowa, ongoing and projected climate shifts (e.g., increases in extreme events such as floods and droughts) coupled with intense agriculture activities (e.g., increased demands for food and biofuel production) have prompted a re-examination of how regional ecosystems respond to changes in climate, economics, and policy, as well as the dynamic interactions between natural and human systems in a continuously evolving rural system.
NASA Experimental Project to Stimulate Competitive Research
Our vision for the Iowa NASA EPSCoR project is to build research capacity within the state to quantify the links between net greenhouse gas emissions, soil carbon, land use, and environmental impacts while building a program of national stature in the study of carbon cycle in intense agricultural systems. Greenhouse gas mitigation through agriculture management practices such as no-till cultivation is assumed as a viable option. But the implications of agriculture management practices (till vs. no-till) on carbon fluxes are highly uncertain and not well understood.The University of Iowa and its partners is very well positioned to address agricultural carbon cycle questions though an EPSCoR program. The program will offer unique student opportunities, position the grant team for long-term extramural funding, and leverage several existing observational and computational assets. These include the NSF-supported Clear Creek Amana Hydrologic Observatory, atmospheric carbon transport models in use at the University of Iowa, the recently installed tall tower observatory 15 km from Iowa City, and the long-term, field observations at the NLAE sites.