Mulch vs. succession:
Mulch is the product of disturbance, and the first step of a succession toward a closed-canopy system.
Disturbance is redox: combustion, respiration, batteries... It is a chain-reaction release-flow of ecological energy, typically embodied in the ligatures of carbon-based molecules (fuel/carbohydrate). This release of free-floating carbon into the river of space-time is an opportunity. Shape your river so that it winds about and steps down a chain of vernal pools held back by leaky weirs. Remember we're talking about carbon, but the concept is the same as water - the great ocean to which all carbon eventually flows is the atmosphere (as CO2). Complex carbon into your landscape, and by complex, I mean 1) facilitate interaction, and 2) slow flow. Chop-and-drop is the most efficient, though not appropriate for all crop situations, ideal for tree/shrub-based systems.
It is not an efficient use of your human energy to use imported mulch as a long-term weed-barrier. It constantly breaks down into a perfect (weed)seed-bed, and mulch takes energy! The next step up the successional ladder is living-mulch (layers of canopy). Mulch is a spring-board for greater levels of organization, of complexity, of community, which are self-resilient through their dynamism. The hardest thing for a gardener to do in the landscape is to grow absolutely nothing at all.
Thanks for the topic - close to my heart!