Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sparing or sharing? Protecting wild species may require growing more food on less land

Date:
September 5, 2011
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
In parts of the world still rich in biodiversity, separating natural habitats from high-yielding farmland could be a more effective way to conserve wild species than trying to grow crops and conserve nature on the same land, according to a new study.

Farming in India. Researchers collected information on more than 600 species in southwest Ghana and northern India, two parts of the world where demand for agricultural land is putting ever more pressure on wild species.
Credit: muralinathypr / Fotolia

In parts of the world still rich in biodiversity, separating natural habitats from high-yielding farmland could be a more effective way to conserve wild species than trying to grow crops and conserve nature on the same land, according to a new study published on September 2, 2011 in the journal Science.

Related Articles


The study, by researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, collected information on more than 600 species in southwest Ghana and northern India, two parts of the world where demand for agricultural land is putting ever more pressure on wild species. The researchers measured crop production as well as the abundances of birds and trees in forests and in various types of farmland.

"Farmland with some retained natural vegetation had more species of birds and trees than high-yielding monocultures of oil palm, rice or wheat but produced far less food energy and profit per hectare," said lead author Dr Ben Phalan from the University of Cambridge. "As well as requiring more land to produce the same amount of food, the 'wildlife-friendly' farmlands were not as wildlife-friendly as they first appeared. Compared with forest, they failed to provide good habitat for the majority of bird and tree species in either region."

The researchers discovered that, under current and future scenarios of food demand, most species would have larger total populations if farming was restricted to the smallest area feasible, while protecting as much natural forest as possible. This was true not just for rare species but for common species as well.

This strategy, called 'land sparing', uses higher yields on existing farmland to spare land for nature (in contrast with 'land sharing', which aims to conserve wild species and grow crops on the same land). Because high-yield farming produced more food from less land, it could be used as part of a strategy to protect larger tracts of natural habitats such as forest.

"It would be nice to think that we could conserve species and produce lots of food, all on the same land," said study author, Dr Malvika Onial from the University of Cambridge. "But our data from Ghana and India show that's not the best option for most species. To produce a given amount of food, it would be better for biodiversity to farm as productively as possible, if that allows more natural habitat to be protected or restored."

"It is critical to note that increasing crop yields would not work in isolation," said study author Professor Andrew Balmford from the University of Cambridge. "Such increases need to be combined with active measures such as national parks and community reserves to protect natural habitats from conversion to farmland. Conservation policy-makers should explore new ways to link protection of natural habitats with efforts to increase food yield per unit area in sustainable ways. Food retailers could perhaps make these linkages a feature of environmentally-friendly food products."

The researchers cautioned, however, that although their findings in Ghana and India are remarkably consistent, they may not hold true everywhere. It is possible that land sparing will be a better strategy in some places and land sharing in others. They advise that further studies in representative parts of the world are needed to determine whether there is a more general pattern.

"Our study does not give uncritical support to large-scale agribusiness over small-scale farming systems," said study author Professor Rhys Green from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the University of Cambridge. "High-yielding organic farming and other systems such as agroforestry can be a useful component of a land sparing strategy and may offer the additional advantage of fewer adverse effects of farming from fertilisers and pesticides. But whatever the farming system, protection of natural habitats will continue to be essential for the conservation of many species."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons license. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ben Phalan, Malvika Onial, Andrew Balmford, Rhys E. Green,. Reconciling food production and biodiversity conservation: land sharing and land sparing compared. Science, 2 September 2011: Vol. 333 no. 6047 pp. 1289-1291 DOI: 10.1126/science.1208742

Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "Sparing or sharing? Protecting wild species may require growing more food on less land." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110901142102.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2011, September 5). Sparing or sharing? Protecting wild species may require growing more food on less land. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110901142102.htm
University of Cambridge. "Sparing or sharing? Protecting wild species may require growing more food on less land." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110901142102.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins