Farms as ecosystem service providers?
10th May 2013
New research looks at how the management of farms and agricultural landscapes impacts on both pollinators of crops and natural enemies of crop pests.
Gorm Shackelford, Pete Steward, Tim Benton, Bill Kunin, Jacobus Biesmeijer, and Steve Sait, all faculty researchers and Africa College members, along with Simon Potts from Reading, have been researching the extent to which farmland could be managed for both food production and biodiversity conservation.
Biodiversity can contribute to food production through the pollination of crops and the natural control of crop pests, and it is thought that both pollination and pest control are enhanced in farmlands with lots of natural habitats. However, it is not yet known whether there are synergies or trade-offs between the management of pollination and pest control services, or whether these natural habitats have similar effects on both of these ecosystem services.
In a meta-analysis, the authors found that crops surrounded by high amounts of natural habitat had more species of both bees and spiders. This suggests that the conservation or restoration of natural habitats around farms might benefit both pest control and pollination services. However, results for other groups of natural enemies (predatory beetles and parasitic wasps) were inconclusive, and although these farms had higher numbers of bees, they did not have higher numbers of spiders (they only had more species of spiders).
Farms with more species might have more stable pollination and pest control services, but the magnitude of these services might depend on the abundance of efficient pollinators or natural enemies, rather than the diversity of pollinators and natural enemies per se.
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