Benefits of Biodiversity in Agriculture

Benefits to Agriculture

PRODUCTIVITY: Conservation and management of broad-based genetic diversity within domesticated species have been improving agricultural production for 10 000 years. A wide range of species provides many thousands of products through agriculture. High production levels are sustained through maximizing the beneficial impact of ecosystem services for agriculture.

ADAPTATION: A diverse range of organisms contributes to the resilience of agricultural ecosystems and their capacity to recover from environmental stress and to evolve. Informed adaptive management of planned agricultural and unplanned associated biodiversity above and below ground secures agricultural production.

MAINTENANCE OF ECOSYSTEM FUNCTIONS: Essential functions such as nutrient cycling, decomposition of organic matter, crusted or degraded soil rehabilitation, pest and disease regulation, and pollination are maintained by a wide range of populations in and near agricultural ecosystems. Building on and enhancing these functions reduces external input requirements by increased nutrient availability, improved water use and soil structure, and natural control of pests.

Benefits to Biodiversity

DELIVERY OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES: Agriculture occupies more than one-third of the land in most countries of the world. Agricultural lands and coasts managed sustainably as ecosystems contribute to wider ecosystem functions such as maintenance of water quality, soil moisture retention with reduction of runoff, water infiltration, erosion control, carbon sequestration, pollination, dispersal of seeds of wild and endangered plants, and refuge for species during droughts.

INCENTIVES: A range of populations needed by agriculture, such as pollinators and beneficial predators, need habitat diversity to survive. Agriculture, therefore, provides incentives to preserve areas such as hedgerows and field borders. The need for adaptation and potential for improvement in productivity provides an incentive for the conservation of a diverse range of genetic resources both in situ and ex situ.

ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE: A large part of the human legacy of knowledge of biodiversity, its importance and functions has been gained and will continue to be gained across cultures through agriculture practice and reflection. This is a resource that should be more actively used, as in schools’ programs, to strengthen the ecological literacy of all citizens.