The world currently faces a major challenge. How do we meet the increasing demand for food supply, whilst also protecting the environment?
As the human population continues to rise, more land will need to be committed to agricultural production to meet the rising demand for food. So how do we conserve wildlife and natural habitats, whilst ensuring we have suitable land to safeguard global food security?
The global food system and biodiversity
The global food system is reported as one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss, with agriculture alone threatening 24,000 of the 28,000 species at risk of extinction.
Over the past 50 years global crop production has almost tripled, resulting in a 30% increase in farmland. With a goal of producing more food at lower costs, agricultural intensification and land clearance has accelerated significantly. However, this increase in farming has come at a high cost for biodiversity.
Intensive farming and farmland expansion are now considered to be the two major drivers of biodiversity loss
From the increased use of agrochemicals, mechanical activities and land clearance to the destruction, simplification and fragmentation of habitats; modern farming has led to major and unpredictable impacts on biodiversity.
These biodiversity losses will only continue if we fail to safeguard land for nature and change the ways we produce our food. In fact, if we continue to neglect biodiversity, the destruction of ecosystems and habitats will threaten our very existence.
In addition to these biodiversity losses, it is also worth noting that the global food system is also a major driver of climate change, producing around 30% of global greenhouse gases. Agriculture is responsible for 80% of global deforestation and 70% of freshwater use.
Preventing such devastation, and reducing agriculture’s impact on the planet, is possible but it will require a significant investment in sustainable agricultural land management.
Sustainable agricultural land management
Given the impact that farming practices can have on biodiversity, land management is vital. This requires the planning and management of rural land to ensure it is not used in a way that will negatively impact on the environment.
Adopting more sustainable land management strategies has the power to conserve or enhance ecosystems and habitats, without compromising farming and food production. It aims to integrate the management of land, water and other natural resources to meet human needs, whilst also ensuring long-term biodiversity.
There are currently two approaches to agricultural management which include wildlife-friendly farming and land sparing. Both approaches aim to increase the availability of resources for wildlife such as food and shelter.
Wildlife-friendly farming is where agricultural practice is tailored to enhance populations of wildlife by creating a more integrated system.
Land sparing sees portions of agricultural land managed intensively to increase yields. This, in turn, reduces the pressure to convert natural habitats into croplands. It also allows the excluded land to return to a semi-natural state, which can then boost biodiversity by increasing food and habitat opportunities.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to agricultural land management. From the use of water and fertilizers to the removal of natural habitats such as trees and hedgerows, these actions can have a significant impact on nature. Any such changes should be carefully planned with the help of an ecological expert, who will consider land-use zoning and planning to minimise the fragmentation of natural land.
How can an ecological expert help?
From ecological appraisals to biodiversity farmland management plans, an experienced ecologist will be able to identify any areas and wildlife that you need to protect, mitigate or enhance, making sure you comply with relevant wildlife laws and policies and agri-environment payment schemes. Additionally, using Defra’s biodiversity net gain metric we can calculate the biodiversity net gains on your land and identify areas where you could trade biodiversity credits to compensate for biodiversity losses locally, securing additional farmland income streams that directly benefit biodiversity.
Conducting these appraisals means that biodiversity protection and mitigation can be carefully considered and incorporated into farming and land management practice. It includes
- Surveying the land either on foot or remotely using satellite imagery to identify key habitats, such a rivers, woodland, hedgerows and important grassland.
- The mapped information is analysed alongside records of important protected or threatened wildlife species to identify areas of biodiversity importance.
- We calculate the biodiversity net gains that could be achieved through altering land management practices across key habitats and discuss sustainable alternatives as well as advantages of land banking areas for biodiversity credits.
If you would like to discuss using your land in a more ecologically-sensitive way, contact us on 01225 459564 or email email@example.com
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