What can the study and management of Oregon’s vineyards contribute to a healthy ecosystem?

Quite a lot, as it turns out. Conservation, biodiversity, and habitat connectivity are the keys. With more than 35,000 acres of Oregon farmland devoted to grapes, vineyards provide an excellent laboratory to identify on-farm biodiversity standards that can support habitat connectivity across working landscapes.

“Vineyard Landscapes: Biodiversity and Conservation for Wine Lovers and Others” will be the topic when Dr. Matt Shinderman speaks at The Belfry on Tuesday, January 28 for the first winter lecture in the 2019-2020 Frontiers in Science series.

“Conservation in the 21st century is not boundary-driven,” explains Dr. Shinderman, “and a patchwork of isolated chunks of preserved land is not conducive to a healthy ecosystem. The question is how agriculture can contribute to conservation efforts and remain productive and profitable.”

The LIVE certification program for vineyards in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho is one answer. Dr. Shinderman serves as a consultant to the program, which describes itself as “the personal commitment of principled Northwest people to ‘do the right thing’ for the environment and society.”

Employing a comprehensive set of rigorously applied, science-based standards and procedures, LIVE ensures that both wine-grape farming (viticulture) and wine-making production (enology) are as sustainable and have as minimal an environmental impact as possible.

“From a biodiversity perspective, it does little for us to think about an individual property, unless we are also thinking about the role that property plays in the surrounding landscape and vice versa,” Shinderman said in a recent interview. “How can we do things on a specific property that can contribute to the larger-scale initiatives?”

Functional connectivity, creating habitat patches linking ecosystems, is one method to create greater biodiversity.

“The farther away a patch is to a similar patch, the likelihood of beneficial insects decreases,” he explained. “If we want to have organisms move across a property, then we have to think about incorporating habitat patches throughout that property as connections.

“The next challenge of conservation in the United States and more broadly, globally, will not be about setting aside large protected areas where humans are less and less part of the landscape,” Dr. Shinderman points out. “The next challenge will be fundamentally rethinking how we can use farms and ranches to better connect protected areas.” In short, he says, “how can we apply ecological theory and practice to agricultural lands.”

At OSU-Cascades, Dr. Shinderman teaches courses ranging from endangered species ecology to rangeland ecosystem management, and his scholarly interests include sustainability in brewery and vineyard settings, ecological assessment of urban landscapes, ecological restoration and species adaptation to climate change. Dr. Shinderman earned his doctorate from Colorado State University, where he studied ecosystem management at the wildland/urban interface.

The evening lecture, sponsored by the Sisters Science Club, starts at 7 p.m. at The Belfry.

Social hour begins at 6 with wine tasting, light fare, beer, and purchased wine available. Admission is $5; teachers and students are admitted free. The Belfry is located at 302 E. Main Ave., Sisters.

Find more information on this topic and on the Sisters Science Club at Sisters Science Club.