ASSESSING REGIONAL AGROECOSYSTEM HEALTH COMBINING ECOLOGICAL-SOCIAL-ECONOMIC COMPONENTS USING CASE STUDIES OF NOVA SCOTIA AND FUJIAN PROVINCES
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There is growing interest in the theory and methods for assessment of agroecosystem health because of the realization that these approaches have the potential to better inform management strategies. Despite this growing attention, there continues to be a lack of scientific basis for an integrated (ecological-social-economic) assessment of agroecosystems on a larger scale and in a global context. This project established a framework for agroecosystem health assessment that integrated ecological, social and economic components. Nova Scotia and Fujian Provinces were utilized as contrasting geographic and political regions to test the framework and demonstrate its usefulness for regional evaluation of agroecosystem health. In order to develop frameworks for agroecosystem evaluation, experts with diverse academic backgrounds both in Canada and China were invited to identify and rank agroecosystem health indicators. While there was good agreement among experts in most areas, the analysis showed some significant differences in the perceptions towards agroecosystem health indicators between Canadian and Chinese experts. Soil erosion, gross domestic product (GDP) and human happiness and health, were jointly selected as the primary agroecosystem health indicators from the perspectives of ecology, economics and sociology, respectively. Geographic information system (GIS) analysis was applied to explore and present both spatial and temporal changes of these three primary indicators in the two regions. These three health indicators were considered together, to develop an overall agroecosystem health assessment comparing Nova Scotia and Fujian. The results indicated that Nova Scotia had a significantly higher level of agroecosystem health, compared with Fujian, using health integrity index combining soil erosion, GDP per head and self-reported human happiness and health. This dissertation provides a methodological approach using multiple criteria analysis based on GIS to demonstrate how to conduct interdisciplinary research for agroecosystem assessment. This study has potential to contribute to current understanding of agroecosystem assessment and management, which is needed by policy and decision makers.