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Food production, ecosystem services, and biodiversity: We can’t have it all everywhere

Thursday, November 17, 2016 18:23
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Desdemona Despair

The hazard, risk and mitigation measures currently recommended for the most commonly used herbicides, fungicides and insecticides used on winter beans, with the likely consequent impacts on key arable ecosystem services. § indicates the substances that have driven the reported level of hazard and risk. The hazard level for non-target terrestrial plants could not be identified as this group has not been considered to be at risk until recently. Graphic: Holt, et al., 2016 / Science of the Total Environment

ABSTRACT: Debate about how sustainable intensification and multifunctionality might be implemented continues, but there remains little understanding as to what extent they are achievable in arable landscapes. Policies that influence agronomic decisions are rarely made with an appreciation of the trade-offs that exist between food production, biodiversity conservation, and ecosystem service provision. We present an approach that can reveal such trade-offs when used to assess current and future policy options that affect agricultural inputs (e.g., pesticides, nutrients) and practices. In addition, by demonstrating it in a pesticide policy context, we show how safeguarding a range of ecosystem services may have serious implications for UK food security. We suggest that policy change is most usefully implemented at a landscape scale to promote multifunctionality, tailoring pesticide risk assessment and incentives for management that support bundles of ecosystem services to specific landscape contexts. In some instances tough trade-offs may need to be accepted. However, our approach can ensure that current knowledge is used to inform policy decisions for progress towards a more balanced food production system.

Food production, ecosystem services and biodiversity: We can't have it all everywhere

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