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Will biodiversity talks bridge governmental divide?



Elephant Coaching Middle at Padang Sugihan Wildlife Reserve. Photograph by Khairul Abdi / CIFOR-ICRAF

Look down on Earth from an eagle’s perspective, and also you’ll see that nearly half of the world’s liveable land floor is occupied by agriculture. One other one fifth is protected for biodiversity conservation, and totally 90% of all protected areas adjoin farmland.

It’s clear that agriculture dominates our impacts on biodiversity – and there’s no higher argument for making each agriculture and surroundings sectors work collectively to guard the world’s organic variety.

However as scientists at CIFOR-ICRAF, a CGIAR centre working within the world South with farmers, forest communities and governments to develop and implement land-use methods that assist biodiverse, inclusive, resilient and secure meals techniques, we see an enormous disconnect between nationwide agriculture and biodiversity insurance policies world wide.

The brand new International Biodiversity Framework (GBF) being developed by the United Nations Conference on Organic Variety (CBD) affords a key political alternative to bridge this disconnect and help authorities businesses in implementing a joint agenda on meals manufacturing, human well-being and biodiversity conservation. There’s a threat, nevertheless, that agricultural landscapes could also be omitted of the brand new framework, with penalties that will be dangerous for the Conference and all of humanity.

In a world the place the welfare of 8 billion individuals is determined by each pure and agricultural biodiversity, the GBF’s aim of “living in harmony with nature” can solely be achieved if agriculture and surroundings ministries and their businesses work collectively within the monumental effort wanted to avert the looming biodiversity disaster.

With nicely over 40% of the world’s liveable land floor dedicated to meals manufacturing, agriculture has a serious affect on biodiversity, local weather change and human well-being. In its historic concentrate on protected areas, nevertheless, the CBD has historically seen agriculture as one of many largest threats to biodiversity.

On the UN Biodiversity Convention to be held from 7 to 19 December in Montreal, negotiators will finalize the GBF, which can information world biodiversity efforts within the a long time forward. The convention affords an unparalleled alternative to make the agricultural sector a companion in biodiversity conservation. However there’s uncertainty in regards to the framework textual content.

The ultimate textual content of the GBF is rising from a collection of conferences of a complete group of UN Member States, non-governmental organizations, worldwide organizations and different observers. Early variations of the GBF have been unequivocal in recognizing the significance of agricultural landscapes for the conservation of biodiversity, emphasizing ecosystem integrity and connectivity. Because the most up-to-date assembly of the group in June, nevertheless, the language of the framework’s Goal A (the part of the GBF that focuses on lowering threats to biodiversity) has modified.

Textual content now in brackets, to be negotiated in Montreal, raises concern that as a substitute of recognizing the necessity to defend biodiversity in “all” ecosystems, the GBF will prohibit the CBD to a slender concentrate on pure ecosystems of excessive conservation worth, in impact making it a conference on protected areas.

Farming for sustainability

The publication in 1987 of “Our Common Future,” also called the Brundtland Report, catapulted the thought of ’sustainability‘ into common use, defining it as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. For governments, this means that land currently used for food production must still produce food in 50 years’ time.

However what’s one of the simplest ways to make sure that can occur?

In agriculture coverage, ‘sustainability‘ implies extra environment friendly manufacturing, leading to greater yields with much less use of land, water and fertilizer. However these insurance policies usually fail to contemplate that the sustained productiveness of land is determined by its biodiversity – the interplay of varied crops, animals and different organisms that kind a fancy net of organic exercise within the agroecosystem.

The best way we use and work agricultural land issues, each for the sustainability of meals manufacturing and for its contribution to biodiversity conservation on the panorama scale. Agricultural methods which can be pleasant to biodiversity are well-known and nicely confirmed. For instance, lowering the disturbance of the soil throughout cultivation advantages the construction and well being of the soil whereas additionally conserving organisms that profit crops. Soil organisms play a key function in recycling vitamins, regulating carbon sequestration and greenhouse fuel emissions, modifying soil construction and water circulation, and protecting crops wholesome. Sustaining the variety of those organisms is essential for meals manufacturing, however deep ploughing of huge areas of land sharply reduces soil biodiversity.

Introducing livestock into the combination offers manure, a precious fertilizer particularly wealthy in phosphorus, and results in a round type of farming the place native biodiversity can discover a house. Diversifying crops contributes to biodiversity conservation by creating niches for various animals and crops. Including timber enhances this impact much more, as a result of they assist scale back soil erosion and keep the water cycle and may complement farm households’ revenue.

Farmers may improve biodiversity by leaving uncultivated strips between crops and riverbanks or different pure areas, and by planting border hedgerows. Moreover offering habitat for wild species, these areas can harbour pollinators and pure enemies of crop pests.

Maintaining the large image in thoughts

Such measures to guard biodiversity may be carried out on particular person farms, however their advantages multiply drastically when they’re utilized throughout agricultural landscapes. To facilitate panorama approaches to biodiversity conservation, the CBD should emphasize the significance of integrating biodiversity into agricultural planning and administration at panorama and ecosystem ranges, relatively than relying on restricted, site-specific actions.

Wildlife additionally advantages from an strategy primarily based on a mosaic of adjoining farmland and guarded areas. Many wild species have tailored to agricultural landscapes, however even strictly forest-dwelling species use patches of pure forest or grassland in agricultural areas, which scientists name “natural habitat in working landscapes”.

Forest patches, grassland or pure habitat alongside streams and rivers permit wild species to maneuver between protected areas. Flying bugs and birds are essentially the most adept at this motion, adopted by mammals and reptiles that may journey lengthy distances shortly. Animals that crawl slowly, nevertheless, are at a drawback. Equally, some crops have seeds that journey or are carried lengthy distances, however seeds of others, together with many timber, disperse with larger issue in fragmented habitats.

With considerate planning and administration, nevertheless, farmland and areas of excessive conservation worth may be linked via ’linkage zones’, benefiting animals and crops. These corridors can permit giant animals and slow-spreading crops to maneuver throughout farmland from one protected space to a different. Cautious planning of land use and habitat safety may scale back battle between people and animals in locations like East Africa, the place elephant migration routes are more and more blocked by fences and farms.

Built-in strategy for a wholesome planet

Conservation scientists and specialists who advise the CBD via its intergovernmental scientific advisory physique stress that whereas “priority should be given to retaining existing natural ecosystems. … [t]he conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is also important in areas beyond ‘natural’ ecosystems including in agricultural and urban environments. Such ‘managed’ ecosystems (those whose biotic composition is the result of deliberate manipulation by people) can provide important habitats, and contribute to habitat connectivity, for some species, as well as being essential for ecosystem functioning and services.”

That’s why you will need to be sure that the brand new International Biodiversity Framework doesn’t slender the CBD’s focus to pure and guarded areas, ignoring the potential of integrating these with agricultural areas. The framework’s goal of “living in harmony with nature” can’t be achieved with out making an allowance for the big expanse of the planet the place individuals dwell and work.

Agricultural ecosystems should be acknowledged, because the adjustments which can be wanted for agriculture to play its function in biodiversity conservation can solely be achieved at a panorama degree, the place ecosystems may be managed for integrity, connectivity and the upkeep of ecosystem companies.

Decreasing the administration of biodiversity on farmland to a set of site-specific actions would get rid of numerous alternatives for making agricultural landscapes biodiversity-friendly. Eradicating agricultural landscapes from the CBD would scale back the conference’s scope and affect.

Lastly, GBF negotiators are starting to achieve settlement on a choice to increase protected areas to embrace 30% of the planet’s floor. Due to the quantity of land devoted to producing meals for the world’s inhabitants, that aim can solely be achieved by incorporating agriculture into methods and plans for shielding biodiversity. This may require the complete participation of agricultural authorities, who’re more likely to proceed to disregard biodiversity if agriculture is just not included in world biodiversity coverage.

International biodiversity coverage issues. Governments set spending priorities on the idea of agreed coverage, whether or not it’s their very own funding in biodiversity conservation or the help budgets that wealthy donor international locations put aside for supporting conservation in creating international locations. At present, agricultural ministries and authorities world wide focus their actions nearly completely on growing farming effectivity.

Biodiversity conservation is commonly the remit solely of surroundings ministries and associated authorities. Until and till the significance of agricultural ecosystems to biodiversity conservation is acknowledged – and efforts are made to make agriculture a part of the answer to the issue relatively than the trigger – we threat lacking out on this very important ingredient of biodiversity safety. The problem of mainstreaming biodiversity into agriculture will stay past attain with out full coverage assist, and that assist should start with the GBF.

For additional info, please contact Anja Gassner at or Philip Dobie at

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This analysis was supported by IKI Germany

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