Food production and Wildlife can coexist
A larger-scale approach to sustainable farming could be more beneficial for wildlife than our current system of farm-based agri environment payments, say researchers working in the Rural Economy and Land Use programme.
As the global population grows, demands on land become ever greater and environmental change is likely to add to the pressure. The researchers, based at the University of Leeds, have been investigating the most effective approaches to optimising sustainable food production while protecting wildlife.
They conclude that conservation of populations of animals and plants requires thinking and planning across the landscape, because it is at this scale, not the farm scale, that many ecological processes happen. A key advance in thinking is not how to make each farm more “wildlife friendly” in itself, but how to make the landscape as a whole better for producing both food and wildlife.
Farming systems that avoid using chemicals to increase yields are often thought to be the best options from a conservation point of view, but this research has shown that a mixture of high-yield, intensive farming and land managed for nature can, in some instances, produce both more food and more wildlife than the pursuit of “wildlife-friendly” farming across the whole landscape.
As the optimal way to manage a landscape to produce farming and wildlife will vary from place to place, a common policy framework may be needed setting overall aims and processes for making decisions, with implementation devolved to county or regional level.
Professor Tim Benton from the University of Leeds says,
“Thinking at a larger scale, to create sustainable landscapes is the key. Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy provides an important opportunity. We need to look at how intensive farming within sustainable landscapes in some localities could be balanced by prioritising wildlife to a greater degree in others. Only by much larger-scale thinking can we hope to achieve the holy grail of increased production that is sustainable and does not damage irreparably the natural processes that we all depend upon.”