Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Biodiversity and ecosystems

With large scale habitat loss, overharvesting, climate change and invasive species affecting most regions in the world, many thousands of animal and plant species are at risk of extinction due to human actions. The food system is the primary driver of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. At the same time, food production is closely interlinked with and dependent on the continued existence of specific natural areas, because it relies on ecosystem services such as pollination, fish stock renewal and rain water cycling and countless others.

12 April 2017

Planetary health is a new approach that broadens health research to include the health of human civilisations and the natural (external) systems on which they depend. In a new journal, alongside The Lancet Public Health and The Lancet Global Health, The Lancet Planetary Health will explore the links between planetary and human health and how we can protect the environment on which we depend and develop sustainable systems that support human health. 

4 April 2017

In the latest in a series of articles seeking to shake up the conversation about food production and its trade-offs (see for example our previous summary of Elena Bennett’s Nature commentary, and the subsequent FCRN discussion forum), this opinion piece seeks to shift the focus of the discourse away from food production as the goal of agriculture, and towards food security, incorporating biodiversity outcomes.

Photo credit: Amy West, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
28 February 2017

This paper argues that the strength of the linkages between the ‘Human System’ and the Earth system warrants a new paradigm of modeling which incorporates key factors in one system as variables of a model of the other.

24 January 2017

This newly revised edition by Cambridge researchers sets out to help those interested in evidence-based conservation with summaries of relevant topics. 

24 January 2017

The Global Food Security (GFS) programme in the UK has published a report providing evidence for the existence of environmental tipping points and exploring potential consequences for global food security.

17 January 2017

In this Nature Comment article, Elena Bennett of the McGill School of Environment and the Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Québec, argues against the underlying premise of the ‘land-sparing’ vs ‘land-sharing’ debate that has dominated the agriculture-environment discourse for decades, and advocates a new and more holistic approach that focuses on maximising human well-being.

10 January 2017

This report, entitled ‘What’s at Steak? The Real Cost of Meat’ published by the Global Forest Coalition in December 2016, emphasises the negative impact of industrial livestock production on forests, using five detailed case studies, in BoliviaBrazilIndiaParaguay, and Russia. In South America, for example, the report states that 71% of deforestation in the region has been driven by demand for livestock products.

Photo credit: James Anderson, photo-oil-palm-fruit-original, Flickr, Creative Commons licence 2.0
24 October 2016

The largest share of agricultural land in tropical landscapes is managed, not as large-scale industrial plantations, but by smallholders. This Nature Communications article integrates the interdisciplinary research of more than 20 research groups, and seeks to address gaps in our understanding of the ecological impacts of this smallholder-managed agricultural land. The study uses a multifaceted approach to investigating the crop choices that farmers make and how these choices impact on ecological and economic outcomes.

17 October 2016

This paper makes an important methodological contribution to the highly disputed debate about whether the net effect of agricultural intensification on biodiversity is positive or negative. What is already known is that there is clear relationship between increased agricultural intensification and decreased biodiversity on the land that has been intensified. 

Photo: David Leo Veksler, Binjang Forest Park, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
11 October 2016

Initiated in 1999, the Grain-for-Green Program was set up primarily to reduce soil erosion and uses cash payments to incentivise people to replant trees on sloped crop and scrubland. This study examines the effects on bird and bee species in the scheme across the country. It finds that the program has not greatly benefited birds and bees due to the common practice of monoculture tree planting.

Photo: Pejman Parvandi, Footprint, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
4 October 2016

There is increasing evidence that human demands on natural systems are accelerating and could affect the stability and services provided by these systems. This paper aims to aid understanding of the temporal and spatial variability of human pressures on natural systems, which provides a foundation for environmental damage mitigation. Recent advances in remote sensing have allowed great development in mapping of human pressures, particularly in forested areas. Other pressures, such as roads and pasture lands, have by comparison been overlooked.

Photo: USFWS Mountain-Prairie, Wetlands in Croplands, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
28 September 2016

In this modelling study, the authors examine potential trade-offs between sufficient food provisioning in the future and sustaining biodiversity. On the one hand they find that cropland expansion increases food security, particularly in areas which are currently struggling with access to safe and nutritious food.

Photo: Rod Waddington, After the Rainforest Uganda, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
6 September 2016

In this paper, land change scenarios are modelled that include biodiversity protection or afforestation for carbon sequestration as an explicit demand which competes with demand for food and feed production.

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