Luther College biology professor authors book chapter about sustainable Iowa agriculture
Beth Lynch, Luther College associate professor of biology, recently contributed chapter 13, “The Ties That Bind: Biodiversity’s Critical Importance” in a book titled “Tending Iowa’s Land – Pathways to a Sustainable Future” edited by renowned Iowa author Cornelia Mutel. The book details Iowa’s transformation from woodlands to agriculture fields and proposes solutions to the problems related to the environment.
The book is divided into four sections that discuss soil, water, air and life, how these components affect agriculture and possible solutions. It is written for a non-technical audience and is meant to be informative but also fun to read. “It contains chapters written by research scientists like myself as well as essays written by people who are doing really interesting work in building sustainable pathways in Iowa,” said Lynch.
In her chapter, Beth Lynch examines the value of biodiversity as an introduction to the fourth section of the book: Life. Lynch describes what biodiversity is, why it is important and the loss of biodiversity in Iowa since the mid-19th century.
“I begin with describing some of the unexpected and marvelous species diversity that I have observed close to where I live on a farm north of Decorah and then I explain some of the science about biodiversity and extinction using examples from Iowa,” said Lynch. “It’s kind of depressing to talk about extinction, but it’s important for people to understand that we are currently experiencing a massive human-caused loss of biodiversity that will impact us and the places we live. It doesn’t get as much attention as climate change, but it is just as important and is happening much more quickly.”
The book also highlights how biodiversity and environmental problems will play a role in Iowa’s agriculture in the future. “If things continue as is, we will continue to see the rapid depletion of the little bit of biodiversity that still remains in Iowa,” said Lynch. “We will see fewer species surviving, even in parts of the state that are not planted in crops. Protecting biodiversity will require restoring and saving habitats that are needed by native species. Many people are working hard to do this on tiny fragments of public and private land, but so far it’s not on the scale that it needs to be to prevent future species losses.”
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