Authors: Stinner, D.H., Stinner, B.R., Martsolf, E.
Journal: Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment
Human perception is complex and multi-faceted. Our perceptions and interpretations of those perceptions can affect the success of land management; indeed, perception can affect many of the ecosystem processes that Holistic Research Management (HRM) practitioners intend to enhance.
Perception, biodiversity, and ecosystem management are the key issues addressed by Stinner et. al. in the paper entitled Biodiversity as an organizing principle in agroecosystem management: Case Studies of holistic resource management practitioners in the USA.
This paper makes an interesting distinction between differing approaches to scientific research. The scientia approach is described as “quantitative, focused, precise, slow, expensive, and, if done in optimal conditions, so controlled as to be disassociated from the complexities of reality.” The praxis approach, in contrast, is described as “qualitative, rich in contextual information, relatively inexpensive, quick, and highly confounded with complexities of the real world.” The praxis approach was the research framework used by the authors.
Twenty-five HRM practitioners were interviewed for this research, all of them located in the United States. The scale of operations was between 7.3 ha and 90,000 ha, with the average time practicing HRM being 5.6 years. All but one participant was using planned intensive grazing.
96% of participants reported an observed increase in biodiversity since they began using HRM. 80% of participants reported increased profits from their land with the application of Holistic Management. 40% of participants reported actual percentage increases in profits, ranging from 60% to 1400%, with an average of 386%. 52% reported decreases of between 40% and 60% in labor requirements, thereby improving profitability and/or quality of life. As a quality of life indicator, 91% of participants reported that HRM had a positive effect on time management, both for business and personal matters.
An interesting result of this research is the change in perception of the practitioners: 9% of participants believed biodiversity to be important before being exposed to HRM; 100% believed biodiversity to be important after practicing HRM. This sea change in perception has been observed in numerous case studies, but its effect on the well-being of ecosystem processes is still poorly understood.
It is true that the study design was biased towards operations that had some degree of success with HRM prior to the study. Examples do exist of ranches and farms that have been less successful than those represented in the study. Nevertheless, several key points are clearly illustrated by this research:
- The praxis approach to research offers a practical, lower-cost alternative to future research endeavors
- Holistic Management, when applied by well-trained and conscientious land managers, can greatly enhance the profitability of ranch and farm operations, particularly operations managing livestock.
- The Holistic Management framework elevates the importance of biodiversity for the land manager, and evidence suggests may even enhance biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystem processes.
On this last point, more research is required. The gray area between human psychology and healthy ecosystem processes is an important frontier in the realm of 21st century ecology research.