Restoration of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services on Agricultural Land
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- Rey Benayas, J.M. & Bullock, J.M. Ecosystems (2012) 15: 883. doi:10.1007/s10021-012-9552-0
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Cultivation and cropping are major causes of destruction and degradation of natural ecosystems throughout the world. We face the challenge of maintaining provisioning services while conserving or enhancing other ecosystem services and biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. There is a range of possibilities within two types of intervention, namely “land sharing” and “land separation”; the former advocates the enhancement of the farmed environment, but the latter a separation between land designated for farming versus conservation. Land sharing may involve biodiversity-based agricultural practices, learning from traditional farming, changing from conventional to organic agriculture and from “simple” crops and pastures to agro-forestry systems, and restoring or creating specific elements to benefit wildlife and particular services without decreasing agricultural production. Land separation in the farmland context involves restoring or creating non-farmland habitat at the expense of field-level agricultural production—for example, woodland on arable land. Restoration by land sharing has the potential to enhance agricultural production, other ecosystem services and biodiversity at both the field and landscape scale; however, restoration by land separation would provide these benefits only at the landscape scale. Although recent debate has contrasted these approaches, we suggest they should be used in combination to maximize benefits. Furthermore, we suggest “woodland islets”, an intermediate approach between land abandonment and farmland afforestation, for ecological restoration in extensive agricultural landscapes. This approach allows reconciliation of farmland production, conservation of values linked to cultural landscapes, enhancement of biodiversity, and provision of a range of ecosystem services. Beyond academic research, restoration projects within agricultural landscapes are essential if we want to halt environmental degradation and biodiversity loss.