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Changes in farming practices over the past century have had negative influence on farmland biodiversity. Organic farming excludes most agrochemicals, such as inorganic fertilisers and synthetic pesticides, and can be an alternative to conventional farming. A recent meta-analysis indicates that there is on average 30% higher species richness on organically managed farmland compared to conventionally managed farmland. There are, however, large variation between organism groups, with a positive influence on plants and pollinators and possibly predators and birds, but less influence on and insufficient knowledge for other groups. Using more formal experimental design, focusing on understudied organism groups and aspects of biodiversity, such as genetic and ecosystem diversity, and evaluating effects on rare species would advance our knowledge. The yield reduction under organic farming, resulting in more land needed to produce the same amount, could offset some of the biodiversity benefits of organic farming. Agricultural landscapes are both used to produce food and other agricultural products and as habitat for farmland biodiversity.Agricultural intensification, with increased use of agrochemical, mechanisation, crop breeding and conversion of land, is a threat to biodiversity.Organic farming is aimed at ecosystem management and reduction of agrochemical use.Organic farming results in around 30% higher biodiversity compared to conventional farming.The effects of organic farming vary between organism groups owing to their ecological traits.The effect of organic farming on biodiversity can be modified by landscape heterogeneity, land use intensity and time since conversion to organic farming.There are remaining gaps in the knowledge about how to combine agricultural production and biodiversity conservation.
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Effects of Organic
Farming on Biodiversity
Maj Rundlöf, Department of Biology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
Henrik G Smith, Department of Biology & Centre for Environmental and Climate
Research, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
Klaus Birkhofer, Department of Biology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
Advanced article
Article Contents
Organism-dependent Effects of Organic Farming
Landscape and Scale-dependent Effects of
Organic Farming
Organic Farming and Biodiversity Conservation
Conclusions, Knowledge Gaps and Future
Online posting date: 15th December 2016
Changes in farming practices over the past century
have had negative influence on farmland biodiver-
sity. Organic farming excludes most agrochemicals,
such as inorganic fertilisers and synthetic pesti-
cides, and can be an alternative to conventional
farming. A recent meta-analysis indicates that
there is on average 30% higher species richness
on organically managed farmland compared to
conventionally managed farmland. There are, how-
ever, large variation between organism groups,
with a positive influence on plants and pollinators
and possibly predators and birds, but less influence
on and insufficient knowledge for other groups.
Using more formal experimental design, focusing
on understudied organism groups and aspects of
biodiversity, such as genetic and ecosystem diver-
sity, and evaluating effects on rare species would
advance our knowledge. The yield reduction under
organic farming, resulting in more land needed to
produce the same amount, could offset some of
the biodiversity benefits of organic farming.
Several key ecosystem processes in agricultural landscapes have
been replaced by mechanical and chemical practices in conven-
tional farming, often with negative consequences for biodiversity
(Stoate et al., 2001). Organic farming, which aims at ecosystem
management and excludes agrochemicals such as inorganic fer-
tilisers and most pesticides (Stockdale et al., 2001), can be an
alternative to conventional farming. Organic farming can inu-
ence biodiversity directly and indirectly. Given the regulations
eLS subject area: Ecology
How to cite:
Rundlöf, Maj; Smith, Henrik G; and Birkhofer, Klaus (December
2016) Effects of Organic Farming on Biodiversity. In: eLS. John
Wiley & Sons, Ltd: Chichester.
DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0026342
of organic farming, direct effects include reduced exposure to
pesticides and inorganic fertilisers. For example, a large Euro-
pean study has shown that increased use of pesticides reduced
the diversity of plants, carabids and birds (Geiger et al., 2010a).
Indirect effects include effects of changed farming practices that
results from the restrictions on agrochemical use, such as the use
of organic manure and changed crop choice (Stockdale et al.,
2001), which can result in increased local habitat diversity on
organic farms (Hardman et al., 2016, but see Schneider et al.,
2014). There are however remaining gaps in the knowledge about
how different aspects of farming practices inuence biodiver-
sity. In this article, we aim to review the effects of organic
farming on biodiversity based on relevant literature, put this
work into perspective and identify knowledge gaps. See also:
Biodiversity– Threats;Conservation of Biodiversity
The effects of organic farming on biodiversity, most often
dened as species richness, have been assessed in a large num-
ber of studies (see examples in Tab l e 1) and summarised in
review articles (e.g. Hole et al., 2005) and meta-analyses (e.g.
Bengtsson et al., 2005). In the latest and largest meta-analysis
assessing the impacts of organic farming on biodiversity, Tuck
et al. (2014) concluded that organic farming increases the local
biodiversity with on average about 30% but that there is large
variation between studies and organism groups. This variation
can be attributed to differential responses of organisms to changes
in farming practice (Fuller et al., 2005), modifying effect of the
heterogeneity of the surrounding landscape (Rundlöf and Smith,
2006), variation in the time since conversion to organic farm-
ing (Jonason et al., 2011) and the scale at which organic farm-
ing is applies: eld, farm or whole landscape (Gabriel et al.,
2010). The spatial distribution of organic farming could also con-
tribute to the variation; organic farming is often more common in
extensively managed agricultural areas with a larger proportion
of permanent habitats such as grasslands (Rundlöf and Smith,
2006; Gabriel et al., 2009). Comparing biodiversity between
organically and conventionally managed farmland, without con-
sidering this, would make it difcult to separate the inuence
of the farming practice from that of for example soil condi-
tions or landscape structure. Rather than comparing different
farms with and without organic management, ideally biodiversity
should be evaluated before and after conversion, for example in a
before-after-control-impact (BACI) design (Figure 1). However,
to our knowledge, such studies do not exist. See also:Species
Richness: Small Scale
eLS © 2016, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 1
Effects of Organic Farming on Biodiversity
Time 1
Time 2
Figure 1 Experimental designs useful for evaluating effects of organic farming on biodiversity. (a) A paired design, where organic farms are paired with
conventional farms, for example by taking the landscape context and geographical location into consideration, is useful in space-for-time substitution
studies. (b) The BACI (before-after-control-impact) design can also be used, where half of the selected farms (or fields) are converted to (or from) organic
farming. Biodiversity is assessed on the farms (or fields) both before and after the conversion. Farms (or fields) should preferably be randomly assigned to
the treatment and control groups. In both the cases, it is important to include sufficient replication to be able to detect any difference in the measured
parameter(s) between the farming systems.
Organism-dependent Effects of
Organic Farming
Different organism groups can be positively, negatively or not at
all affected by organic farming (Bengtsson et al., 2005; Fuller
et al., 2005; Winqvist et al., 2011; Birkhofer et al., 2014a; Schnei-
der et al., 2014;Tucket al., 2014;Tabl e 1). These different
responses have partly been attributed to how mobile organisms
are; it could be more difcult to detect effects on mobile organ-
isms, moving over large areas, if only a small area is organically
managed (Fuller et al., 2005). Differences could also be due to
how strong organisms respond to the changes that conversion
to organic farming entails, such as the reduction in pesticide
use and crop choice. Local factors such as agrochemical input
are probably more important for sedentary organisms such as
plants, while landscape factors, such as the amount of permanent
habitat, are more important for mobile organisms. The effect of
organic farming on biodiversity can also depend on which aspects
of biodiversity that are considered, such as taxonomic related-
ness or community or trait composition (Andersson et al., 2013;
Birkhofer et al., 2014a,2015).
For some organism groups, such as mammals, reptiles, amphib-
ians and protozoa, there are very few studies about the effects
of organic farming (Tuck et al., 2014). With such limited data,
it is hard to draw general conclusions. Here we summarise the
knowledge for organism groups for which we have sufcient
information, based on Tuck et al. (2014) and some more recent
Microbes and decomposers
The biomass of soil bacteria and fungi can be negatively affected
by conventional compared to integrated or organic farming (Kong
et al., 2011) with often pronounced effects of the farming sys-
tem on community composition (reviewed in Birkhofer et al.,
2012). In soil animals, it is noticeable that effects of organic farm-
ing on species richness are weak to absent compared to other
functional groups (Tuck et al., 2014). The review by Tuck et al.
(2014), however, explicitly excludes all data about a range of
important soil animal groups due to low numbers of publications.
Among the excluded taxonomic groups are annelids (earthworms
and pot worms) and nematodes (roundworms). On the basis of
the few available publications, pot worms (Enchytraeidae) and
earthworms (Lumbricidae) show less consistent responses to dif-
ferences in farming practices compared to some trophic groups
of nematodes (Birkhofer et al., 2012; Schneider et al., 2014).
Soil arthropods (meso- and macrofauna) are also not consistently
affected by organic farming, with effects that range from higher
abundance and species richness to no difference or even oppo-
site patterns under conventional farming (Birkhofer et al., 2008;
Diekötter et al., 2010).
2eLS © 2016, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Effects of Organic Farming on Biodiversity
Tabl e 1 Effects of organic farming on the species richness of different organism and functional groups relative to conventional farming,
with examples for case studies and additional reviews.
Effect of organic
Organism group (n)
Microbes (6) =Kong et al. (2011); Birkhofer et al. (2012)
Plants (62) +Aude et al. (2003); Roschewitz et al. (2005); Rundlöf et al. (2010); Winqvist et al.
(2011); Schneider et al. (2014)
Arthropods (89) +Feber et al. (1997); Weibull et al. (2000); Clough et al. (2007); Diekötter et al.
(2010); Ekroos et al. (2010); Rusch et al. (2014); Birkhofer et al. (2015); Inclán
et al. (2015)
Birds (17) =Batary et al. (2010); Geiger et al. (2010b); Smith et al. (2010a); Winqvist et al.
Functional group (n)
Decomposers (19) =Birkhofer et al. (2008, 2012); Diekötter et al. (2010); Schneider et al. (2014)
Producers (plants) (62) +Aude et al. (2003); Roschewitz et al. (2005); Rundlöf et al. (2010); Winqvist et al.
(2011); Schneider et al. (2014)
Herbivores (6) =Birkhofer et al. (2015)
Pollinators (21) +Holzschuh et al. (2008); Rundlöf et al. (2008b); Andersson et al. (2013); Schneider
et al. (2014)
Predators (49) +Birkhofer et al. (2008, 2012, 2014a, 2015); Diekötter et al. (2010); Ekroos et al.
(2010); Winqvist et al. (2011); Rusch et al. (2014); Schneider et al. (2014);
Inclán et al. (2015)
Effect direction and sample size are based on results in Tuck et al. (2014): +, higher species richness on organic farmland; =, no signicant difference
in species richness between organic and conventional farmland (i.e. when the 95% credible interval overlap 0); n, number of studies included in the
Plants are the organism group that usually shows the most con-
sistent results when comparing organic and conventional farming
(reviewed in Bengtsson et al., 2005;Holeet al., 2005;Tucket al.,
2014). The relatively strong effect of organic farming on plant
diversity is primarily due to the direct negative effects of her-
bicides in conventional farming (Geiger et al., 2010a), reducing
noncrop plant diversity in elds (Roschewitz et al., 2005; Win-
qvist et al., 2011; Schneider et al., 2014) and adjacent habitats
(Aude et al., 2003; Rundlöf et al., 2010). Organic cereal elds
generally have higher plant diversity compared to conventional
elds (Roschewitz et al., 2005; Winqvist et al., 2011), both on
cereal farms and on farms with both cereal and animal produc-
tion (Ekroos et al., 2010). The difference can be particularly
pronounced in landscapes devoid of seminatural habitats, while
approaching similar levels between farming systems in more
complex and heterogeneous landscapes (Roschewitz et al., 2005;
but see Winqvist et al., 2011). The management of elds can also
inuence plant diversity in adjacent habitats. Plant diversity was
higher in uncultivated eld borders (Rundlöf et al., 2010)and
hedges (Aude et al., 2003) adjacent to organically managed elds
compared to adjacent to conventional elds.
The effect of organic farming on the diversity of herbivores
is not well known (Tuck et al., 2014), partly because many
applied studies rather focus on effects of organic farming on abun-
dances of single pest species instead of community level analyses
(Birkhofer et al., 2016). The few available studies suggest that
local farming practices have a very variable effect on herbivore
species richness and that landscape-scale intensication may be
a stronger driver of herbivore diversity compared to organic farm-
ing practices (Tuck et al., 2014). True bug communities (mainly
consisting of herbivorous species) have higher species richness
on organic farmland and in addition have a lower functional and
taxonomic distinctness under conventional farming (Birkhofer
et al., 2015). The later effect suggests that reduced species num-
bers due to intense, conventional farming may simultaneously
result in a loss of phylogenetically and trait-wise unique species
from local herbivore communities. Interestingly, even if positive
effects of organic farming on herbivore diversity in crop elds
are observed compared to conventional farming, the number of
species will still be much lower than in adjacent seminatural habi-
tats (Birkhofer et al., 2014b).
Pollinating arthropods
Pollinators, such as bees and hoveries, and other ower visitors,
such as butteries, have been the focus of many studies compar-
ing diversity on organic and conventional farmland (Tuck et al.,
2014). These organism groups generally have higher species rich-
ness on organic compared to conventional farmland (Rundlöf
and Smith, 2006;Feberet al., 1997; Holzschuh et al., 2008;
Rundlöf et al., 2008a,b; Andersson et al., 2013; Birkhofer et al.,
2014a; Schneider et al., 2014). As they are all dependent on
eLS © 2016, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 3
Effects of Organic Farming on Biodiversity
nectar and/or pollen from owering plants, their diversity prob-
ably benets from the higher abundance of owering plants in
and around organically managed elds (Gabriel and Tscharn-
tke, 2007; Rundlöf et al., 2008b). High pollinator diversity on
organically managed farmland could contribute to support insect
pollinated plants, both wild (Gabriel and Tscharntke, 2007)and
cultivated (Environmental Impacts of Organic Farming). The
use of insecticides to control pest insects in conventional farming
can have negative effects also on nontarget organisms (Desneux
et al., 2007; Rundlöf et al., 2015), so the limited use of such agro-
chemicals in organic farming may contribute to the often-found
higher pollinator diversity.
Predaceous arthropods
The main groups of arthropod generalist predators (predaceous
beetles and spiders) seem to benet from organic farming in terms
of abundance (reviewed in Bengtsson et al., 2005; Fuller et al.,
2005;Holeet al., 2005; see also Birkhofer et al., 2008). Effects
on the diversity of these taxonomic groups are less predictable
(Schneider et al., 2014, reviewed in Birkhofer et al., 2012), as
predaceous species groups within this functional groups can be
negatively affected by organic farming (Birkhofer et al., 2014a).
Organic farming also alters the composition of ecological traits in
generalist predator communities compared to that in convention-
ally managed elds (Rusch et al., 2014; Birkhofer et al., 2015).
These diversity changes in the functional composition of predator
communities together with effects of organic farming on predator
abundance can affect the functional role of predator communi-
ties in organically compared to conventionally managed elds
(Birkhofer et al., 2016). Studies on the effect of organic farm-
ing on parasitoid communities traditionally focus on parasitism
rates and not on taxonomic richness or other measures of diver-
sity. Inclán et al. (2015) recently documented positive effects of
organic farming on tachinid parasitoid species richness across
local to landscape scales.
Bird are generally positively affected by organic farming (Win-
qvist et al., 2011;Tucket al., 2014), but effects vary between
studies and species (Wilcox et al., 2014) and species richness
may even be higher on conventional farms (Gabriel et al., 2010).
The latter results may be because organic farms were associated
with habitats favouring corvids, which are important nest preda-
tors. Although attempts to determine what causes organic farming
to benet birds are few, there are indications that it is related
to lower use of pesticides and higher availability of seminatu-
ral habitat (McKenzie and Whittingham, 2009), both which may
benet food availability. Positive effects of organic farming on
bird species richness are found on both arable elds and in mead-
ows (Batary et al., 2010). In addition, organic farming has been
found to have larger effects on bird species richness in landscape
with low amounts of seminatural habitat (Smith et al., 2010a,but
see Winqvist et al., 2011). Organic farming may benet birds also
in winter (Fuller et al., 2005), at least in simplied agricultural
landscapes (Geiger et al., 2010b). In general, landscape structure
may be a more important determinant of bird species richness
than farm management (Gabriel et al., 2010).
Landscape and Scale-dependent
Effects of Organic Farming
Several studies have shown that effects of organic farming on
plants and more mobile biodiversity can be landscape depen-
dent (Roschewitz et al., 2005; Rundlöf and Smith, 2006). In
heterogeneous landscapes, with a high proportion of uncultivated
habitats such as eld borders and seminatural grasslands, sim-
ilar levels of diversity can be expected on organic and conven-
tional farmland because the complexity of the landscape and high
habitat availability promote biodiversity and the local manage-
ment becomes less important (Tscharntke et al., 2005). In con-
trast, simple and homogeneous landscapes dominated by arable
farming are suggested to have an intermediate species pool that
responds to improved local habitat quality by management, such
as organic farming (Tscharntke et al., 2005). Another factor
that can inuence the effect of organic farming on biodiver-
sity is how large portions of the landscape are that are man-
aged organically (Rundlöf et al., 2008a,b; Diekötter et al., 2010;
Gabriel et al., 2010). This could be because effects on mobile
organisms become more detectable when organically managed
habitat is more agglomerated or because of nonadditive effects
on populations. As a result, there can be additive biodiversity
benets of managing farmland organically beyond the single
farm (Gabriel et al., 2010). However, other studies found no
landscape-dependent effect of organic farming (Weibull et al.,
2000; Winqvist et al., 2011). In the meta-analysis by Tuck et al.
(2014), the difference in diversity between organic and conven-
tional farming increased with increasing proportion of arable land
and a multicountry study concludes that the species richness ben-
ets of organic farming increased with increasing regional nitro-
gen input (Schneider et al., 2014). There is however considerable
variation in the results, which is partly attributed to different
responses between organism groups to local farming practices
and varying land-use intensity in different landscapes. See also:
Species Richness: Small Scale
Organic Farming and Biodiversity
Given that the difference in local biodiversity between organic
and conventional farmland is most pronounced in simple and
intensively farmed landscapes (Roschewitz et al., 2005; Rundlöf
and Smith, 2006;Tucket al., 2014), the biodiversity gain would
be largest if farms in such areas would convert to organic farming
(Tscharntke et al., 2005). However, as this landscape dependency
cannot be generalised over organism groups and the knowledge of
how organic farming inuence rare and threatened species, which
are predominantly occurring in heterogeneous landscapes (Kleijn
et al., 2011), is insufcient (but see Birkhofer et al., 2014a), the
optimal location of organic farming to support biodiversity needs
further investigation.
Although the overall effect of organic farming on biodiver-
sity appears to be positive (Tuck et al., 2014), there is some
uncertainty if this positive inuence on local biodiversity can con-
tribute to higher regional diversity (Schneider et al., 2014). This
4eLS © 2016, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Effects of Organic Farming on Biodiversity
pattern could be expected if organic farming had a stronger inu-
ence on common species compared to more rare species. There
are however studies that indicate that organic farming can con-
tribute to larger diversity also at regional scales (Clough et al.,
2007). Biodiversity conservation is not always an outspoken goal
of organic farming and the design and implementation of this
farming practice is not optimised for such purpose. Using the eco-
logical requirement of the organisms in focus as starting points
when designing the rules governing organic farming, its effect on
biodiversity would most likely be enhanced.
There is an ongoing debate on the optimal way to conserve
biodiversity and at the same time increase agricultural produc-
tion (Phalan et al., 2011; Fischer et al., 2014). Although organic
farming has an overall positive effect on biodiversity (Tuck et al.,
2014), the increased land area needed to compensate for the
lower yields in organic farming systems (Ponisio et al., 2015)
leaves less land that could be used for biodiversity conservation.
Because of the lower yields and a suggested higher diversity per
unit production under conventional farming, it has been argued
that there may be no overall benet of organic farming (Hodg-
son et al., 2010). This approach to standardise biodiversity by
yield that is for example commonly used in comparing emissions
of greenhouse gases between organic and conventional farming
however suffers from major logical aws for diversity. In contrast
to CO2levels, species richness is not measured on a simple addi-
tive scale where all units are easily exchangeable because each
species is a unique entity. In Europe, there are for example many
rare species that depend on extensively managed farmland and
thus are directly supported by low-intensity agriculture such as
organic farming (Sutcliffe et al., 2015). See also:Environmental
Impacts of Organic Farming
Conclusions, Knowledge Gaps and
Future Studies
We conclude that there is strong support for an overall posi-
tive effect of organic farming compared to conventional farming
on biodiversity, measured as species richness over all organism
groups (Tuck et al., 2014), but that there remain several knowl-
edge gaps. Plants are one of the most well-studied organism group
and that is strongest inuenced by organic farming, probably due
to direct effects of herbicide use in conventional farming, and
this effect can cascade up to affect higher trophic levels in the
food chain. The effect of organic farming differs between organ-
ism groups, with positive inuence on plants and pollinators and
possibly also predators and birds, but less inuence on microbes,
herbivores and decomposers and insufcient knowledge about for
example mammals and amphibians (Tuck et al., 2014). In fact,
most organism groups apart from plants, arthropods and birds
appear to be understudied in relation to effects of organic farming
and conclusions apply to common rather than rare species.
The higher biodiversity on organic farmland, for example of
pollinators, could contribute to ecosystem services, but there is
still a limited understanding about how organic farming inu-
ences such services (Environmental Impacts of Organic Farm-
ing). We have focused on species-based measures of biodiversity,
but biodiversity also includes genetic and ecosystem variation.
These aspects of biodiversity have not been addressed prop-
erly in relation to organic farming. See also:Ecosystem Ser-
vices;Convention on Biological Diversity;Diversity of Life;
Environmental Impacts of Organic Farming
Current studies of biodiversity effects of organic farming are
predominantly conducted as ‘space-for-time’ studies, where bio-
diversity is compared between areas with already established
organic and conventional farmland at the same point in time
(Figure 1). In such studies, it is essential to consider multiple
factors that can modify the effect of organic farming on biodi-
versity, for example the heterogeneity and land-use intensity in
the landscape surrounding the organic farmland. Another type
of study that would be useful is the BACI design, that is studies
where biodiversity is evaluated before and after conversion to or
from organic farming (Figure 1). Such formal experiments could
help to disentangle some of the inconclusive results in the litera-
ture. It is, however, logistically and nancially very challenging to
conduct experiments at a landscape scale, which is often needed
for mobile organisms. One solution would be to integrate such
experimental evaluation in policies that include agri-environment
schemes to support organic farming (Smith et al., 2010b). The
conclusions we draw here are applicable to Western and Northern
Europe and North America because these are the regions where
most studies on organic farming and biodiversity have been con-
ducted (Tuck et al., 2014). There are very few studies from other
regions, so knowledge about the effects of organic farming on
biodiversity elsewhere is limited.
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Further Reading
Benton TG, Vickery JA and Wilson JD (2003) Farmland biodiversity:
is habitat heterogeneity the key? Trends in Ecology & Evolution 18:
Bommarco R, Kleijn D and Potts SG (2013) Ecological intensica-
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Ekroos J, Ödman AM, Andersson GKS, et al. (2016) Sparing land
for biodiversity at multiple spatial scales. Frontiers in Ecology and
Evolution 3: 145.
Gabriel D, Sait SM, Kunin WE, et al. (2013) Food production
vs. biodiversity: comparing organic and conventional agriculture.
Journal of Applied Ecology 50: 355–364.
Green RE, Cornell SJ, Scharlemann JPW and Balmford A (2005)
Farming and the fate of wild nature. Nature 307: 550–555.
Kleijn D and Sutherland WJ (2003) How effective are European
agri-environment schemes in conserving and promoting biodiver-
sity? Journal of Applied Ecology 40: 947–969.
Köhler H-R and Triebskorn R (2013) Wildlife ecotoxicology of
pesticides: can we track effects to the population level and beyond?
Science 341: 759–765.
Tscharntke T, Clough Y, Wanger TC, et al. (2012) Global food
security, biodiversity conservation and the future of agricultural
intensication. Biological Conservation 151: 53–59.
Winqvist C, Ahnström J and Bengtsson J (2012) Effects of organic
farming on biodiversity and ecosystem services: taking landscape
complexity into account. Annals of the New York Academy of
Sciences 1249: 191–203.
eLS © 2016, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 7
... Some of the major causes of biodiversity loss are habitat degradation, pollution, unsustainable consumption of resources, introduction of alien species and diseases (Badgley, 2003;Clark & Downes, 1995). Agricultural activities can be a major cause of biodiversity losses through direct (use of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers) and indirect effects (for example, habitat degradation through drainage of wetlands) such that changes to agricultural production practices that support biodiversity are important for the preservation of biodiversity (Badgley, 2003;Rundlöf, Smith, & Birkhofer, 2016; Secretariat of Convention on Biological Diversity, 2008). The improvement of biodiversity on agricultural lands is important, for example, for the maintenance of water quality and quantity, supporting pollinators and allowing ecosystems to be more resilient and to adapt to stresses such as droughts (Convention on Biological Diversity, 2014). ...
... Organic management practices are used in managing pests, disease and weeds and these include cultural methods such as crop rotation, setting up a balanced ecosystem and using resistant crop varieties), mechanical techniques (e.g., cultivation) and physical techniques (e.g., weed control through flaming) (Canadian General Standards Board, 2015). Organic crop production does not use synthetic pesticides and inorganic fertilizers (Bengtsson, Ahnström, & Weibull, 2005;Rundlöf et al., 2016). A meta-analysis by Bengtsson et al. (2005) showed that compared to conventional farming, organic farming increased the richness of species by 30% but the results varied across the various studies with 16% of the studies showing a negative impact of organic farming on the richness of the species. ...
... Organic farming had a positive effect on abundance of birds, predatory insects, soil organisms and plants while this was not true for non-predatory insects and pests (Bengtsson et al., 2005). Organic farming has direct (as a result of reduced exposure to pesticides or inorganic fertilizers, for example) and indirect effects (as a result of the management practices that improve habitat diversity such as use of organic manure) on biodiversity (Rundlöf et al., 2016). A review of studies in Canada and the United States by Lynch (2009) found that organic farming had positive effects on floral and wildlife diversity as compared to conventional farming and yields were lower for organic farming as compared to conventional farming. ...
Technical Report
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The objective of this report is to provide a literature review on the economic benefits of biodiversity to Canadian producers of cereals, oilseeds and special crops. The review focuses on the economic benefits of biodiversity to crop farmers that are undertaking farm practices that contribute to biodiversity. The farm practices include the maintenance of permanent and temporary wetlands, generation and renewal of soil and natural vegetation, maintenance of wildlife habitat and moderation of extremes of temperature and force of winds. Publicly available research is included in this report and it includes peer-reviewed academic journal articles and reports from various governmental and non-governmental sources. Studies on the economic benefits of biodiversity to crop farmers (or society in general) are mainly from Canada and the United States. In summary, the results generally show that biodiversity provides economic benefits to crop production in terms of providing pollination services, biocontrol of pests, soil formation, nitrogen fixation, improvements or maintenance of water quality, sequestration of carbon and the protection of crops from the force of winds (shelterbelts). Economic values of the benefits of biodiversity, to society and farmers, are also included in the report.
... Concerning the biodiversity indicators, only plant diversity differed between the organic and IPM orchards. The less diverse plant communities in the IPM orchards are likely due to the negative effects of herbicide use (Rundlöf et al., 2016). The diversity of arthropods, fungi and bacteria as well as biodiversity multifunctionality did not differ between organic and IPM orchards, which is surprising since several reviews report overall beneficial effects of organic farming for biodiversity conservation (Muneret et al., 2018;Tuck et al., 2014). ...
... Recently, the organic rice cultivation model produced a positive shift in rice production and has been effectively applied by many farmers in Nam Dinh, Viet Nam. Using natural systems and avoiding the use of synthetic substances increased biodiversity in soil by up to 30 % on organic farms compared to conventional farming (Rundlöf et al., 2016). Hence, exploiting the salt-stress plant growth-promoting bacteria (ST-PGPB) strains as a safe bioinoculant to improve crop productivity in organic agriculture is an alternative strategy. ...
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p class="042abstractstekst">Developing biostimulants from salt-tolerant plant growth-promoting (PGP) bacteria is an emerging strategy for sustainable agriculture in the context of increasing soil salinization. This study aimed to isolate endophytic bacteria (EB) capable of promoting rice seed germination and seedling growth at different NaCl concentrations. Nine salt-tolerant EB strains were isolated and two, ST.6 and ST.8, with the rice seed promoting effect 99.3 and 99.7 %, respectively, were selected and identified as Pantoea dispersa and Burkholderia cenocepacia , respectively. ST.6 showed a higher value of the activity of phosphatase (617 mg P ml<sup>-1</sup>), production of indole-3-acetic acid (19.7 µg IAA ml<sup>-1</sup>), the activity of 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) deaminase (13.5 µmol mg <sup>−1</sup> protein h<sup>−1</sup>), and production of siderophore (76.3 %). Especially, rice seedlings inoculated with strain ST.6 showed a significant improvement in root length (58.95 %), shoot length (16.6 %), dry biomass (7.0 %), the content of chlorophyll (46.2 and 57.1 % for chlorophyll a and b, respectively), carotenoids (22.2%), and proline (19.0 %). A decrease in antioxidant enzyme activities was also observed in the rice seedlings inoculated with either ST.6 or ST.8 strain under salt stress. Furthermore, the salt stress condition enhanced the colonization of roots by both studied endophytic bacteria. More experiments should be done to develop endophytic bacteria ST.6 and ST.8 as efficient bio-inoculants.</p
... As a consequence of the associated habitat fragmentation and resource degradation, insect abundance and species richness is in decline [2,3]. In order to restore resource availability and diversity, and thereby biodiversity in agroecosystems, the (re)introduction of flowering plants [4,5], grazing cattle [6,7], and organic production systems [8][9][10] are discussed as potential measures to ...
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There is an urgent global need for the ecological intensification of agricultural systems to reduce negative impacts on the environment while meeting the rising demand for agricultural products. Enriching grasslands with floral species is a tool to promote diversity and the associated services at higher trophic levels, and ultimately, to enhance the agricultural landscape matrix. Here, we studied an organic pastures-based dairy production system with plant species enhanced grass–clover pastures with respect to the effect on the activity density, functional traits, carabid assemblages, and species richness of carabid beetles. To understand the effect of land management on carabid beetles, we studied two types of grass–clover pastures with low and relatively high plant diversities in an integrated crop–livestock rotational grazing system (ICLS). As a comparison, organic permanent grasslands and conventionally managed maize were studies. We installed pitfall traps for three weeks in early summer, and for two weeks in autumn. In total, 11,347 carabid beetles of 66 species were caught. Grass–clover pastures did not differ in activity density, functional traits, habitat guilds, or species richness, but conventional maize did show a higher activity density in autumn and a higher proportion of eurytopic species and mobile species compared to grass–clover pastures. On grass–clover pastures, we found more endangered species, Carabus beetles, and a distinct carabid assemblage compared to maize. However, we attribute the lack of an effect of increased plant diversity of the grass–clover pastures on carabid species richness and functional traits to the intensive grazing regime, which resulted in the compositional and structural homogeneity of vegetation. Still, the presence of specialized and endangered species indicated the potential for organically managed grass–clover pastures to promote dispersal through an otherwise depleted and fragmented agricultural landscape. By increasing crop diversity in ICLS, more resources for foraging and nesting are created; therefore, organically managed grass–clover pastures add to the multi-functionality of agricultural landscapes.
... In field and semi-field experiments testing the effects of PPP exposure on non-target organisms, it is important to use organisms expected to forage on the target crop. Osmia bicornis has repeatedly been used in semi-field and field-based assays (e.g., Schwarz et al., 2022), in particular on OSR (Rundlöf et al., 2016;Ruddle et al., 2018;Bednarska et al., 2021;Klaus et al., 2021). However, when floral resources are not manipulated, O. bicornis collects pollen from a wide range of plant taxa, especially from Quercus, Ranunculus, Salicaceae, and Rosaceae, and only rarely from Brassicaceae such as OSR (Budde and Lunau, 2007;Haider et al., 2014;Persson et al., 2018). ...
Full-text available
Bees are under threat from agricultural intensification, and species which are pollen specialists (oligolectic) are thought to have declined disproportionately compared to pollen generalists (polylectic). When assessing the risks of dietary pesticide (plant protection products) exposure to non-target beneficial insects such as wild bees, effects on pollen specialist species have seldom been considered. Research and risk assessment on pesticide risk to bees mainly use a small selection of model species, only representing pollen generalist species. Moreover, the foraging preferences of the existing model species are not always adequately matched to the crops investigated, which may lead to incorrect conclusions regarding the risks posed by pesticides in pollen and nectar. Here, we propose Osmia brevicornis, an oligolectic European wild bee species specialized on Brassicaceae pollen, as a new model organism suitable for assessment of how pesticides can impact specialist pollinators, especially in oilseed rape, a mass flowering Brassicaceae crop. We demonstrate that O. brevicornis can be successfully reared in the field next to oilseed rape and that its nesting success and offspring numbers can be increased by setting out a starting population. In our field assay, nesting tube diameter affected occupation rate and the sex ratio of O. brevicornis offspring. We describe a method for housing and controlled oral administration of sucrose solution in the laboratory, facilitating future studies on pesticide exposure. We conclude that O. brevicornis is a feasible model for assessing the risk of pesticides in the laboratory and in the field, especially for those compounds used in oilseed rape cultivation, as well as for investigating the general ecology of pollen specialists. By suggesting O. brevicornis as a potential model species, we aim to encourage diversification of the species used in agricultural ecology, especially to consider pollen specialists, and encourage attention to the foraging preferences and dietary needs of selected model species when considering pesticide exposure risk and effects.
... For specific ecosystem services provided, or availed of, by an organic farm, such as bird diversity and pollination, outcomes are modified by both land use intensity and the heterogeneity of the surrounding landscape, plus time since conversion to organic farming. Large data gaps exist, however, with respect to understudied organism groups and genetic diversity, the linkage to ecosystem services, and a more nuanced evaluation of the influence of intensity of management within each farming sector (Lynch et al., 2012;Rundlöf et al., 2016;Kirk and Lindsay, 2017;Happe et al., 2018). ...
Full-text available
Organic farming is continuing to expand in Canada, with close to 6,000 producers farming over 2% of all agricultural land. There is insufficient evidence, however, of a trend toward larger average farm size and increasing specialization by these organic farms. This mini-review postulates that a gradient of intensity of farm management exists within organic farming sectors in Canada, with respect to cropping diversity, and tillage and nutrient utilization, and this gradient of intensity is a key determinant of agroecological outcomes. This variation in management approach and intensity reflects producer's individual perspectives on organic farming principles and practices, irrespective of farm scale. By directly influencing farm crop and vegetative diversity and cover, and farm nutrient status and carbon cycling, management intensity determines soil carbon storage and flux, soil health and biodiversity agroecological and ecosystem services, plus farm agronomic resilience. Demographic trends and perspectives of new entrants in organic farming are encouraging signs of an increasingly inclusive and socio-ecologically complex Canadian organic farming sector, which recognizes the agroecological implications of intensity of organic farm management across all production sectors.
... Our results showed inconsistent effects of conventional and organic management on plant, total insect, and pollinator communities, both in terms of species richness and composition. This is in accordance with previous evidence highlighting that the responses of biotic communities to organic and conventional management are different depending on the taxonomic group, with plants being the most affected organisms (Fuller et al., 2005;Tuck et al., 2014;Rundlöf et al., 2016). We found that the field was the only factor to significantly explain differences in both richness and composition for all the surveyed communities, suggesting that the variability between fields under the same management type is relevant and has a great influence on biotic communities. ...
Full-text available
Agricultural management has a great influence on biodiversity and its services in agroecosystems. In Europe, a relevant proportion of biodiversity is dependent on low-input agriculture. To assess the effects of agricultural management on biodiversity, in this study we surveyed the communities of arable plants, diurnal flying insects, and pollinators in three conventional and in two organic fields of a traditional Elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum L.) crop of the Valdichiana area, in Tuscany (central Italy). The sampling was carried out twice along the season: in spring, during crop growing, and in summer, after crop harvesting. We assessed the effects of the different agricultural management on the richness and composition (species occurrence and abundance) of the three communities using univariate and multivariate analyses. Concerning our specific case study, Only plant species richness was significantly higher in organic fields (15.7±2.7 species per plot), compared to conventional ones (5.4±2.3 species per plot). Regarding community composition, only pollinators showed a marginally significant difference (p=0.06) between conventional and organic fields. Conversely, the effect of specific fields significantly explained differences in composition of all the investigated groups (plants and total insects: p<0.001; pollinators: p<0.01). The results suggest that, in our case study, the emerged differences in diversity of the investigated communities were mainly attributable to environmental and management factors related to single fields, more than to organic or conventional farming. Such evidence could be partly due to the very local scale of the study, to the heterogeneity of the surveyed fields, and to the reduced number of surveyed fields. Further investigation is therefore needed.
This chapter provides a detailed description of agricultural policy in three major agricultural systems: the EU, China and the USA, which together constitute ca. 45% of global agricultural output and 27% of global arable land. The authors use a historical perspective to show how the priorities in agricultural policies have evolved in the world. They compare different philosophies of agricultural support and try to establish general guidelines that could be implemented elsewhere. The EU’s common agricultural policy is described with a special emphasis on its new release starting in 2023, together with the EU Green Deal and its accompanying strategies: Farm to Fork and a Biodiversity Strategy. They review the evolution of farm bills in the USA, and they explore the significant role of the ‘National Plan for Sustainable Agriculture’ in China. In the second part of the chapter, the authors compare the structure of financial support in the agricultural sector for the 2005 and 2020 periods. The last part of the chapter concentrates on problems of capitalizing subsidies in rental and land prices, distributional inequality of payments and ageing as the main threats to the successful implementation of sustainable agriculture policy.
This essay is an overview of the traditional food production system known as organic farming. It accounts for its advantages and disadvantages in a modern world and brings an overview of its principles, practices, ways to deal with plagues, and diseases, irrigation, fertilizers, genetic resistance, and the way cisgenesis reduces the time to improve such resistance. It defines cisgenesis and tells the difference between cisgenesis, transgenesis, and other modern biotechnologies meant to improve desirable traits in plants, without having to wait for decades of long rounds of backcrossing with wild relatives of crops with modern varieties, in order to introduce better phenotypes aiming at increasing yields and income for farmers. It also discusses government policies that could be encouraged in developing countries to practice organic farming combined and supported by new precision techniques of biology such as cisgenesis.KeywordsCisgenesisOrganic farmingAlternative agricultureCisgenesCisgenic plantsTransgeneTransgenic plantsConventional breedingTraditional breedingGenetic modificationSustainable agricultureOrganic certification
Plant breeding is a continuous process in which genetic variation and heritability of a trait are essential. Cisgenesis and intragenesis are biotechnology techniques employed to generate additional genetic diversity in the current germplasm to improve their productivity. The development in sequencing approaches and the genome information accessibility simplifies isolation of integral Cis-genes, in conjunction with related promoter/terminator from the same species, and are introduced into the identical or a closely related genome, sexually compatible species, whereas in intragenesis, diverse coding and controlling sequences are accumulated either in a sense or in antisense alignment. This chapter illustrates the present status, applications, constraints, and prospects of cisgenesis and intragenesis to improve crop disease resistance. Further comparisons of cisgenesis, intragenesis, and transgenesis in an era of genome editing to develop cisgenic crops were described. This technique has been utilized to develop disease-resistant cultivars, such as the late blight-resistant potato, by transferring gene Rpi-sto1, Rpi-vnt1.1; similarly, scab resistance gene HcrVF2 for the development of apple cultivars and Vvtl-1, NtpII genes for grapes resistant to fungal diseases. Therefore, we can infer cisgenesis as an influential substitute to transfer the desired gene without linkage drag. Hence, it can be concluded that both cisgenic and intragenic derived genetically modified plants (GMP) are as sustainable and eco-friendly as traditionally bred plants and, therefore, excused from GMP regulation.KeywordsCisgenesisDisease resistanceGenome editingIntragenesisPlant breeding
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A common approach to the conservation of farmland biodiversity and the promotion of multifunctional landscapes, particularly in landscapes containing only small remnants of non-crop habitats, has been to maintain landscape heterogeneity and reduce land-use intensity. In contrast, it has recently been shown that devoting specific areas of non-crop habitats to conservation, segregated from high-yielding farmland (“land sparing”), can more effectively conserve biodiversity than promoting low-yielding, less intensively managed farmland occupying larger areas (“land sharing”). In the present paper we suggest that the debate over the relative merits of land sparing or land sharing is partly blurred by the differing spatial scales at which it is suggested that land sparing should be applied. We argue that there is no single correct spatial scale for segregating biodiversity protection and commodity production in multifunctional landscapes. Instead we propose an alternative conceptual construct, which we call “multiple-scale land sparing,” targeting biodiversity and ecosystem services in transformed landscapes. We discuss how multiple-scale land sparing may overcome the apparent dichotomy between land sharing and land sparing and help to find acceptable compromises that conserve biodiversity and landscape multifunctionality.
Full-text available
Restoration and maintenance of habitat diversity have been suggested as conservation priorities in farmed landscapes, but how this should be achieved and at what scale are unclear. This study makes a novel comparison of the effectiveness of three wildlife‐friendly farming schemes for supporting local habitat diversity and species richness on 12 farms in England. The schemes were: (i) Conservation Grade (Conservation Grade: a prescriptive, non‐organic, biodiversity‐focused scheme), (ii) organic agriculture and (iii) a baseline of Entry Level Stewardship (Entry Level Stewardship: a flexible widespread government scheme). Conservation Grade farms supported a quarter higher habitat diversity at the 100‐m radius scale compared to Entry Level Stewardship farms. Conservation Grade and organic farms both supported a fifth higher habitat diversity at the 250‐m radius scale compared to Entry Level Stewardship farms. Habitat diversity at the 100‐m and 250‐m scales significantly predicted species richness of butterflies and plants. Habitat diversity at the 100‐m scale also significantly predicted species richness of birds in winter and solitary bees. There were no significant relationships between habitat diversity and species richness for bumblebees or birds in summer. Butterfly species richness was significantly higher on organic farms (50% higher) and marginally higher on Conservation Grade farms (20% higher), compared with farms in Entry Level Stewardship. Organic farms supported significantly more plant species than Entry Level Stewardship farms (70% higher) but Conservation Grade farms did not (10% higher). There were no significant differences between the three schemes for species richness of bumblebees, solitary bees or birds. Policy implications. The wildlife‐friendly farming schemes which included compulsory changes in management, Conservation Grade and organic, were more effective at increasing local habitat diversity and species richness compared with the less prescriptive Entry Level Stewardship scheme. We recommend that wildlife‐friendly farming schemes should aim to enhance and maintain high local habitat diversity, through mechanisms such as option packages, where farmers are required to deliver a combination of several habitats.
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Context Hemipteran pests cause significant yield losses in European cereal fields. It has been suggested that local management interventions to promote natural enemies are most successful in simple landscapes that are dominated by large arable fields. Objectives We study how farming category (conventional, new and old organic fields) and landscape complexity affect pests, natural enemies and biological control services in spring barley. We further analyse if yields are related to pest infestation or biological control services. Methods The amount of pasture and the length of field borders were used to define landscape complexity around barley fields in Southern Sweden. Arthropods were sampled with an insect suction sampler and predation and parasitism services were estimated by field observations and inspections of pest individuals. Results Pest infestation was affected by landscape complexity, with higher aphid, but lower leafhopper numbers in more complex landscapes. Aphid predation was higher under organic farming and affected by effects on predator abundance and community composition independent of landscape complexity. Auchenorrhyncha parasitism was neither significantly affected by landscape complexity nor by farming category. Higher aphid predation rates and lower aphid densities were characteristic for organically managed fields with higher barley yields. Conclusions Our results suggest that it is possible to increase both aphid biological control services and barley yield via local management effects on predator communities independent of landscape complexity. However, the success of such management practices is highly dependent on the pest and natural enemy taxa and the nature of the trophic interaction.
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Land-use change is a major driver of the global loss of biodiversity, but it is unclear to what extent this also results in a loss of ecological traits. Therefore, a better understanding of how land-use change affects ecological traits is crucial for efforts to sustain functional diversity. To this end we tested whether higher species richness or taxonomic distinctness generally leads to increased functional distinctness and whether intensive land use leads to functionally more narrow arthropod communities. We compiled species composition and trait data for 350 species of terrestrial arthropods (Araneae, Carabidae and Heteroptera) in different land-use types (forests, grasslands and arable fields) of low and high land-use intensity. We calculated the average functional and taxonomic distinctness and the rarified trait richness for each community. These measures reflect the range of traits, taxonomic relatedness and number of traits that are observed in local communities. Average functional distinctness only increased significantly with species richness in Carabidae communities. Functional distinctness increased significantly with taxonomic distinctness in communities of all analyzed taxa suggesting a high functional redundancy of taxonomically closely related species. Araneae and Heteroptera communities had the expected lower functional distinctness at sites with higher land-use intensity. More frequently disturbed land-use types such as managed grasslands or arable fields were characterized by species with smaller body sizes and higher dispersal abilities and communities with lower functional distinctness or trait richness. Simple recommendations about the conservation of functional distinctness of arthropod communities in the face of future land-use intensification and species loss are not possible. Our study shows that these relationships depend on the studied taxa and land-use type. However, for some arthropod groups functional distinctness is threatened by intensification and conversion from less to more frequently disturbed land-uses.
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Agriculture today places great strains on biodiversity, soils, water and the atmosphere, and these strains will be exacerbated if current trends in population growth, meat and energy consumption, and food waste continue. Thus, farming systems that are both highly productive and minimize environmental harms are critically needed. How organic agriculture may contribute to world food production has been subject to vigorous debate over the past decade. Here, we revisit this topic comparing organic and conventional yields with a new meta-dataset three times larger than previously used (115 studies containing more than 1000 observations) and a new hierarchical analytical framework that can better account for the heterogeneity and structure in the data. We find organic yields are only 19.2% (±3.7%) lower than conventional yields, a smaller yield gap than previous estimates. More importantly, we find entirely different effects of crop types and management practices on the yield gap compared with previous studies. For example, we found no significant differences in yields for leguminous versus non-leguminous crops, perennials versus annuals or developed versus developing countries. Instead, we found the novel result that two agricultural diversification practices, multi-cropping and crop rotations, substantially reduce the yield gap (to 9 ± 4% and 8 ± 5%, respectively) when the methods were applied in only organic systems. These promising results, based on robust analysis of a larger meta-dataset, suggest that appropriate investment in agroecological research to improve organic management systems could greatly reduce or eliminate the yield gap for some crops or regions.
Declines in farmland bird populations have been principally attributed to the intensification of agriculture. In response, agri-environmental schemes and organic farming have been introduced with the aim of making farmland better able to support wildlife populations. These “bird-friendly” agricultural practices include using more diverse crop rotations, stopping the use of pesticides, and creating more heterogeneous landscapes and are expected to create more food resources and nesting habitats for birds. Many studies have been published that evaluate the success or failure of agricultural practices to increase bird abundance. While many studies have found that most organic farming practices are beneficial to birds, other studies have found that some organic farming practices, such as using increased tillage passes, are not beneficial to birds. We conducted a search of the literature and used a meta-analysis approach to analyze the relationship between farming practices and bird populations. We first tested whether organic agriculture is more favorable to farmland birds of Europe and North America compared to conventional agriculture. We used data from 16 experiments and six publications that fulfilled fixed criteria for inclusion in the meta-analysis. We found that organic agriculture had a global positive effect on bird abundance compared to conventional agriculture. However, this effect was significant in only five out of the 16 site-year combinations tested. We also found that the effects varied with the bird species. Ten out of the thirty six species tested show a significant higher abundance value in organic agriculture. When the ratio was significantly different from zero, the abundance was 1.5–18 times higher in organic systems in comparison to conventional systems.
1.The magnitude of the benefits derived from organic farming within contrasting managed landscapes remains unclear and, in particular, the potential scale-dependent response of insect parasitoids is relatively unexplored. Identifying the scale at which parasitoids are affected by organic farming will be an important step to enhance their conservation. 2.We sampled tachinid parasitoids at the centre and margin of arable and grassland fields on paired organic and conventional farms located in landscapes with different proportions of organic land. A total of 192 fields were sampled in two biogeographical regions of the UK. 3.We found that the positive effect of organic farming on tachinid parasitoid diversity can be observed at multiple spatial scales. At the local scale, we found higher abundance and species richness of tachinid parasitoids on organic than on conventional farms and on field margins than on field centres. At the landscape scale, the diversity of tachinids was higher in landscapes with higher proportions of organic land. At both scales, the positive effect of organic farming was clear for arable fields, while it was almost neutral for grasslands. 4.Synthesis and applications. Any attempt to enhance parasitoid diversity in agricultural landscapes needs to consider the local management in relation to the habitat type, location within the field and agricultural management in the surrounding landscape. To restore parasitoid diversity, the promotion of organic agriculture should aim to increase both the total extent of organic farming and the connectivity of individual farms. As the benefits of organic farming to biodiversity clearly spread beyond individual farm boundaries, any assessment of organic farming should consider these positive externalities.
A large proportion of European biodiversity today depends on habitat provided by low-intensity farming practices, yet this resource is declining as European agriculture intensifies. Within the European Union, particularly the central and eastern new member states have retained relatively large areas of species-rich farmland, but despite increased investment in nature conservation here in recent years, farmland biodiversity trends appear to be worsening. Although the high biodiversity value of Central and Eastern European farmland has long been reported, the amount of research in the international literature focused on farmland biodiversity in this region remains comparatively tiny, and measures within the EU Common Agricultural Policy are relatively poorly adapted to support it. In this opinion study, we argue that, 10 years after the accession of the first eastern EU new member states, the continued under-representation of the low-intensity farmland in Central and Eastern Europe in the international literature and EU policy is impeding the development of sound, evidence-based conservation interventions. The biodiversity benefits for Europe of existing low-intensity farmland, particularly in the central and eastern states, should be harnessed before they are lost. Instead of waiting for species-rich farmland to further decline, targeted research and monitoring to create locally appropriate conservation strategies for these habitats is needed now. Keywords Agricultural intensification, agri-environment schemes, common agricultural policy, European Union, high nature value farmland.
Understanding the effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on bees is vital because of reported declines in bee diversity and distribution and the crucial role bees have as pollinators in ecosystems and agriculture. Neonicotinoids are suspected to pose an unacceptable risk to bees, partly because of their systemic uptake in plants, and the European Union has therefore introduced a moratorium on three neonicotinoids as seed coatings in flowering crops that attract bees. The moratorium has been criticized for being based on weak evidence, particularly because effects have mostly been measured on bees that have been artificially fed neonicotinoids. Thus, the key question is how neonicotinoids influence bees, and wild bees in particular, in real-world agricultural landscapes. Here we show that a commonly used insecticide seed coating in a flowering crop can have serious consequences for wild bees. In a study with replicated and matched landscapes, we found that seed coating with Elado, an insecticide containing a combination of the neonicotinoid clothianidin and the non-systemic pyrethroid β-cyfluthrin, applied to oilseed rape seeds, reduced wild bee density, solitary bee nesting, and bumblebee colony growth and reproduction under field conditions. Hence, such insecticidal use can pose a substantial risk to wild bees in agricultural landscapes, and the contribution of pesticides to the global decline of wild bees may have been underestimated. The lack of a significant response in honeybee colonies suggests that reported pesticide effects on honeybees cannot always be extrapolated to wild bees.