Biodiversity Conservation and Agricultural Sustainability: Toward a New Paradigm of “Ecoagriculture” Landscapes

Ecoagriculture Partners, Washington, DC 20001, USA.
Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences (Impact Factor: 7.06). 03/2008; 363(1491):477-94. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2007.2165
Source: PubMed


The dominant late twentieth century model of land use segregated agricultural production from areas managed for biodiversity conservation. This module is no longer adequate in much of the world. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment confirmed that agriculture has dramatically increased its ecological footprint. Rural communities depend on key components of biodiversity and ecosystem services that are found in non-domestic habitats. Fortunately, agricultural landscapes can be designed and managed to host wild biodiversity of many types, with neutral or even positive effects on agricultural production and livelihoods. Innovative practitioners, scientists and indigenous land managers are adapting, designing and managing diverse types of 'ecoagriculture' landscapes to generate positive co-benefits for production, biodiversity and local people. We assess the potentials and limitations for successful conservation of biodiversity in productive agricultural landscapes, the feasibility of making such approaches financially viable, and the organizational, governance and policy frameworks needed to enable ecoagriculture planning and implementation at a globally significant scale. We conclude that effectively conserving wild biodiversity in agricultural landscapes will require increased research, policy coordination and strategic support to agricultural communities and conservationists.

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    • "The outcome of this component of the framework is a clear understanding of why the conservation action or outcome should be relevant to the people needed to act. Methods for elucidating this linkage include mapping of ecosystem services and beneficiaries (Bagstad et al., 2014), value chain analysis (Scherr and McNeely, 2008), and engaging affected people in problem solving (Scarlett, 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Increasing the pace and scale of biodiversity conservation in a human-dominated world requires conservationists to effect systemic change in complex and dynamic socio-ecological systems. Recently, Morrison (2015) introduced a conceptual framework to help conservation planners design a theory of change, i.e., a hypothesis of how their intervention will lead to a desired future condition. Here, I elaborate on that heuristic, and provide guidance for developing its core components. The framework focuses attention on identifying the conditions needed to support biodiversity, and on establishing virtuous socio-ecological cycles between people and their environment that will generate those conditions. Planning a virtuous cycle requires specifying the people whose interaction with nature is needed to change, and what relevance the proposed conservation would have to them. The conservation intervention will largely focus on mobilizing those people to institutionalize policies or practices that mainstream, through self-reinforcing positive feedbacks, the delivery of that conservation outcome. The framework complements existing conservation planning tools and methods – such as biodiversity mapping, situation analysis – by providing context and focus for their application. The clarity of objective versus strategy, of ends versus means, provided by this framework can increase the effectiveness of conservationists, who routinely must estimate and compare the conservation return on investment of different potential interventions and negotiate tradeoffs between biodiversity protection and other societal values.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2016 · Biological Conservation
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    • "However, the changes associated with the development of these activities often negatively impact on ecosystem services, which in the medium and long term impairs the ability of land to sustain such activities (Kareiva et al., 2011; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005; Raudsepp-Hearne et al., 2010; Swinton et al., 2007). Productive landscapes should accommodate mosaics of productive and natural lands and be strategically managed to retain the functionality that maintains the goods and functions of ecosystems that sustain societies (Scherr and McNeely, 2008; TEEB, 2010). To achieve this goal, optimal spatial allocation of human activities should consider ways to minimize their environmental impacts right from the beginning. "
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    ABSTRACT: In the face of current challenges for sustaining human well-being, there is a need for multifunctional landscapes, where land can be allocated to economic activities while minimizing negative externalities. The framework of spatial conservation prioritization (SCP) can be used to identify areas of outstanding ecosystem services (ES) provision, and inform the allocation of different land uses. We present a methodological approach that uses the SCP framework to integrate ES in land-use planning, and apply it to a case study in Uruguay, South America. As in many parts of the world available information on ES is scarce, we generate models of ES provision using spatial multicriteria modeling supported on expert elicitation, to identify areas suitable for agriculture and afforestation, where land use changes have lowest impact on environmental quality. Our results provide a ranking of the landscape that might be used to promote the expansion of these activities in some areas while discouraging it in others in order to achieve sustainability. This approach might be particularly useful for informing Strategic Environmental Assessments, aimed at balancing productive activities with environmental protection. Our study shows that by taking into account ES provision, land uses can be allocated in areas that maximize yields, while reducing their negative environmental impacts.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2016
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    • "However, soil organisms can improve the resistance and resilience of soil against disturbance, for instance by enhancing soil structure (Brussaard et al. 2007). It has therefore been suggested that agricultural practices that stimulate soil biodiversity, such as increased crop diversity, reduced tillage and continuous soil cover, could help mitigate the effects of climate change (de Vries et al. 2012; Scherr and McNeely 2008). Among the enormous variety of life forms in soil, anecic earthworms may be particularly important in ameliorating the effects on soil and plants of intense rains. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background and aims Intense rains are becoming more frequent. By causing waterlogging, they may increase soil erosion and soil surface compaction, hamper seedling establishment, and reduce plant growth. Since anecic earthworms make vertical burrows that improve water infiltration, we hypothesised that they can counteract such disturbance. Methods In a field experiment, intact soil mesocosms with ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum), with or without introduced adult Lumbricus terrestris, underwent either a precipitation regime with two intense rain events (36 mm, at beginning and end of spring), or a control regime with the same cumulative rainfall but no intense events. Short-term response of soil moisture and lagged response of plant growth were measured, and soil macroporosity was quantified. Results Intense rains reduced ryegrass shoot biomass (by 16–21 % on average) only in the absence of earthworms. Waterlogging duration aboveground was not affected, whereas soil moisture contents after intense rainfall tended to drop faster with earthworms present. Continuous vertical macropores were found only in the mesocosms to which earthworms had been added. The number of such macropores was 2.4 times higher under the intense precipitation regime, despite similar earthworm survival. Conclusions We found that anecic earthworms can offset negative effects of intense rainfall on plant growth aboveground. Underlying mechanisms, such as macropore formation and enhanced nutrient cycling, are discussed. We also observed that altered precipitation patterns can modify earthworm burrowing behaviour, as earthworms had produced more burrows under the intense regime.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Plant and Soil
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