Integrating food production and biodiversity conservation inagricultural landscapes

How can land-use strategies accommodate both food production and biodiversity? This research project investigated the interplay between landscape, agriculture and biodiversity.


Agriculture relies on diverse and healthy ecosystems, which ensure important ecosystem services such as soil fertility, pest control and pollination. Land conversion (more farmland) and management intensification (higher yields per area) increased agricultural productivity in recent decades, with negative impacts on the ecosystem. One of the major current challenges, is to describe land use strategies to ensure food production, while minimizing the negative impacts on biodiversity and the environment. The ‘Integrating food production and biodiversity conservation in agricultural landscapes’ research project investigated the interplay between landscape, agriculture and biodiversity. The aim was to describe how land-use strategies can accommodate both food production and biodiversity.


Summaries of the three sub-projects (1) land use, (2) biodiversity promotion and (3) productivity:

Although there is ample evidence that biodiversity is affected by land-use intensification, little is known about how species respond to landscape structure and management on a large scale. The aim here was to show how biodiversity is influenced by the relationship between farmland and natural areas at the scale of 1km x 1km. It was shown that natural areas, such as forests, hedges and waterbodies, should cover at least 20% of the agricultural landscapes to promote biodiversity.

In the second sub-project, biodiversity promotion areas (BPA, formerly ecological compensation areas), whose effectiveness had been repeatedly questioned, were examined more closely. It became apparent that all the BPA measures implemented by farmers in their fields have a positive impact on breeding birds and butterflies at landscape level. The most important factors were the total area and quality of BPA in the landscape. BPA with quality (also known as Q2) were especially important for farmland and AEO (agriculture-related environmental objectives) bird species. It was shown that BPA with quality are particularly rare in the Central Plateau and should be specially promoted.

In the first two sub-projects, the focus was on land use and management, but not on agricultural productivity. At the landscape level, productivity (measured as biomass / - and calorie production) was strongly influenced by the proportion of different crops. Landscapes with large shares of intensively managed grassland had high biomass productions, while landscapes with large proportions of sugar beet, potatoes or vegetables had high calorie productions. There was no general correlation between productivity and biodiversity - food production does not necessarily have a negative impact on biodiversity at landscape level. The conclusions are valid for the Swiss lowland where a mosaic of relatively small fields, different crops and semi-natural areas is present.

Academic publications