VIDEO: Ecological Entanglement: Spooky Action at a Distance

Prof. Kevin McCann discusses the impact of local actions on distant ecosystems.

The rising population, projected to be 9.6 billion people by 2050, demands that we produce more food quickly, but we also must reduce our environmental impacts, including ecosystem degradation, nutrient imbalances and greenhouse gas emissions. Food from Thought researchers will assess the outcomes of different farming on nearby terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and the services to better understand the trade-offs, and therefore potential solutions, to these issues at three scales: local, regional and global.

Backus Heritage Conservation Area, a sample collection site in Ontario.

Food from Thought will assess how farm management practices influence aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems by studying the impact of surface and ground water runoff on test organisms in lab trials, and using small plots at the Elora Research Station to understand how precision agriculture approaches affect nutrient dynamics and ecological processes in soil communities.

Researchers will gather data from a number of farms in southern Ontario to examine the impact of farm management practices on ecosystem function, pollinators, soil carbon storage, and biomass production. This will generate an integrative database that allows the researchers to better understand the impact of various agricultural practices on biodiversity and ecosystem functions.

Food from Thought researchers will examine the inter-related issues of nutrient dynamics and water quality on ecosystem structure and function across the Great Lakes watershed, including relationships among fertilizer application, plant and microbial uptake and retention, capture of nutrient and chemical flows, microbial transfer, and the ultimate impacts of uncaptured nutrients on drinking water quality and aquatic communities across the watershed.

For more information about Ecosystems research, please visit