Global food security, biodiversity conservation and the future of agricultural intensification

Tscharntke, T. and Clough, Y. and Wanger, T. C. and et al, . (2012) Global food security, biodiversity conservation and the future of agricultural intensification. Biological Conservation, 151. pp. 53-59.

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Under the current scenario of rapid human population increase, achieving efficient and productive agricultural land use while conserving biodiversity is a global challenge. There is an ongoing debate whether land for nature and for production should be segregated (land sparing) or integrated on the same land (land sharing, wildlife-friendly farming). While recent studies argue for agricultural intensification in a land sparing approach, we suggest here that it fails to account for real-world complexity. We argue that agriculture practiced under smallholder farmer-dominated landscapes and not large-scale farming, is currently the backbone of global food security in the developing world. Furthermore, contemporary food usage is inefficient with one third wasted and a further third used inefficiently to feed livestock and that conventional intensification causes often overlooked environmental costs. A major argument for wildlife friendly farming and agroecological intensification is that crucial ecosystem services are provided by ‘‘planned’’ and ‘‘associated’’ biodiversity, whereas the land sparing concept implies that biodiversity in agroecosystems is functionally negligible. However, loss of biological control can result in dramatic increases of pest densities, pollinator services affect a third of global human food supply, and inappropriate agricultural management can lead to environmental degradation. Hence, the true value of functional biodiversity on the farm is often inadequately acknowledged or understood, while conventional intensification tends to disrupt beneficial functions of biodiversity. In conclusion, linking agricultural intensification with biodiversity conservation and hunger reduction requires well-informed regional and targeted solutions, something which the land sparing vs sharing debate has failed to achieve so far.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: We note with sadness the passing of our friend, colleague, and mentor Navjot Sodhi; working with him was wonderful and we strongly believe that he would have loved to coauthor this opinion paper – we miss him. Ben Phalan and an anonymous reviewer provided very helpful comments. Author sequence follows the ‘‘sequence-determines-credit’’ (from T.T. to T.C.W.) and the ‘‘equal-contribution’’ norm (from L.J. to A.W.) (see Tscharntke et al., 2007b). Financial support for T.T. came from the German Ministry of Research and Education (BMBF) and the German Research Foundation (DFG) and for J.V. and I.P. from the University of Michigan.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Land sparing vs sharing, Wildlife-friendly farming, Land grabbing, Biofuel directive, Food wastage, Yield-biodiversity trade offs.
Author Affiliation: Agroecology, Department of Crop Sciences, Georg-August University, Grisebachstrasse 6, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
Subjects: Social Sciences > Agricultural Economics
Divisions: General
Depositing User: Mr Siva Shankar
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2012 03:50
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2012 03:51
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