Abstract for: An Investigation into Land Use Changes and Consequences in the Northern Great Plains Using Systems Thinking and Dynamics

From 1997 to 2007, 9.6 million hectares of grassland were converted to cropland and fifty seven percent of these conversions occurred in the Northern Great Plains (NGP). Since 2007, another 9.5 million U.S. hectares have been converted with the majority located in the NGP. Short-term, positive benefits include increased food production and higher financial returns to farmers. However, there could be unintended consequences through loss of ecosystem services. Consequences may include compromised water quality, wildlife habitat loss/fragmentation, and decreased carbon sequestration. The principal objective of this work is to: 1) identify structural features influencing land use decisions through agricultural stakeholder engagement; and 2) to synthesize results into a causal loop diagram through a group model building process. This information can be used to construct a stock-flow model to quantify implications for land management, forecast potential unintended consequences from major land use changes, and develop strategies to minimize their impacts.