Policy Sciences

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 51–67 | Cite as

Sustainable intensification and ecosystem services: new directions in agricultural governance

  • Robert FishEmail author
  • Michael Winter
  • Matt Lobley


Reconciling environmental objectives for land use with the need to produce more food is a prominent concern of scientific and policy discourses on sustainable agriculture. The idea of sustainable intensification has emerged as one prominent framing of this challenge. In this paper we elaborate this idea from an ecosystem services perspective to natural resource management, with particular reference to developments in the UK. The paper considers the general origins and attributes of the perspective and how the challenge of sustainable intensification would be conceptualized and approached through it. While efforts to link analysis of ecosystem services to policy development and delivery in the UK are revealed as consistent with prevailing, and often long standing, approaches to sustainable agriculture, the marketization of environmental assets is highlighted as a distinguishing feature of current policy applications. The character and limitations of this facet of the ecosystem services agenda are discussed. The need to animate ecological issues of sustainable intensification through frames of reference other than those of economic valuation is emphasized.


Food security Sustainable intensification Ecosystem services UK land economy 


  1. Bastian, O. (2013). The role of biodiversity in supporting ecosystem services in Natura 2000 sites. Ecological Indicators, 24, 12–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bommarco, D., Kleijn, R., & Potts, S. G. (2013). Ecological intensification: Harnessing ecosystem services for food security. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 28(4), 230–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Burkhard, B., Petrosillo, I., & Costanza, R. (2010). Ecosystem services: Bridging ecology, economy and social sciences. Ecological Complexity, 7(3), 257–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carruthers, P. (2009). ‘Doing the right thing’: Ethical approaches to land use decision making. In M. Winter, M. Lobley (Eds.) What is land for? The food, fuel and climate change debate (pp. 293–318). London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  5. Chan, K., Satterfield, T., & Goldstein, J. (2012). Rethinking ecosystem services to better address and navigate cultural values. Ecological Economics, 74, 8–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chappell, M. J., & LaValle, L. A. (2011). Food security and biodiversity: Can we have both? An agroecological analysis. Agriculture and Human Values, 28, 3–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Clark, J., Burgess, J., & Harrison, C. M. (2000). “I struggled with this money business”: Respondents’ perspectives on contingent valuation. Environmental Economics, 33, 45–62.Google Scholar
  8. CLG. (2011). The national planning policy framework. London: CLG.Google Scholar
  9. Constanza, R., de d’Arge, R., Groot, R., Grasso, S., Farber, M., Hannon, B., et al. (1997). The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature, 387, 253–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Curtis, F. (2009). Peak globalization: Climate change, oil depletion and global trade. Ecological Economics, 69(2), 427–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Daily, G. C. (Ed.). (1997). Nature’s services: Societal dependence on natural ecosystems. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  12. Daily, G. C., & Ellison, K. (2002). The new economy of nature: The quest to make conservation profitable. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  13. Daily, G., Karieva, P., Polasky, S., et al. (2011). Mainstreaming natural capital in decisions. In P. Karieva, H. Tallis, T. H. Ricketts, et al. (Eds.), Natural capital: Theory & practice of mapping ecosystem services (pp. 3–14). Oxford: University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Daniel, T., Muhar, A., Arneberger, A., et al. (2012). Contribution of cultural services to the ecosystem services agenda. PNAS,. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1114773109.Google Scholar
  15. de Groot, R. S. (1992). Functions of nature: Evaluation of nature in environmental planning, management and decision-making. Groningen, NL: Wolters-Noordhoff.Google Scholar
  16. Deal, R., Cochran, B., & La Rocco, G. (2012). Bundling of ecosystem services to increase forestland value and enhance sustainable forest management. Forest Policy and Economics, 17, 69–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Defra, (2010). Food 2030. London: Defra.Google Scholar
  18. Defra, (2011). The natural choice: Securing the value of nature. The UK Natural Environment White Paper. London: Defra.Google Scholar
  19. Dunlop, C. (2009). Regulating land use technologies: How does government juggle the risks? In M. Winter, M. Lobley (Eds.) What is land for? The food, fuel and climate change debate (pp. 263–292). London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  20. EFRA. (2009). Securing food supplies up to 2050: The challenges faced by the UK. London: House of Commons.Google Scholar
  21. FAO. (2006). Livestock’s long shadow: Environmental issues and options. Rome: FAO.Google Scholar
  22. Farley, J., & Constanza, R. (2010). Payments for ecosystem services: From local to global. Ecological Economics, 69, 2060–2068.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Firbank, L., Bradbury, R. B., McCracken, D. I., et al. (2012). Delivering multiple ecosystem services from Enclosed Farmland in the UK. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 166, 65–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fish, R. (2011). Environmental decision making and an ecosystems approach: Some challenges from the perspective of social science. Progress in Physical Geography, 35(5), 671–680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Foresight. (2011). The future of food and farming. London: The Government Office for Science.Google Scholar
  26. Garnett, T., & Godfray, H. (2012). Sustainable intensification in agriculture: Navigating a course through competing food system priorities. Oxford: Food Climate Research Network and the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food.Google Scholar
  27. Gasparatos, A., Stromberg, P., & Takeuchi, K. (2011). Biofuels, ecosystem services and human wellbeing: Putting biofuels in the ecosystem services narrative. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 142(3–4), 111–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gomez-Baggethun, E., de Groot, R., Lomas, P. L., & Montes, C. (2010). The history of ecosystem services in economic theory and practice: From early notions to markets and payment schemes. Ecological Economics, 69, 1209–1218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gordon, L., Max Finlayson, C., & Falkenmark, M. (2010). Managing water in agriculture for food production and other ecosystem services. Agricultural Water Management, 97(4), 512–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gornall, J., Betts, R., Burke, E., Clark, R., Camp, J., Willett, K., et al. (2010). Implications of climate change for agricultural productivity in the early twenty-first century. Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society B, 365, 2973–2989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gregory, P. J., Newton, S. N., Johnson, A. C., & Ingram, J. S. I. (2009). Integrating pests and pathogens into the climate change/food security debate. Journal of Experimental Botany, 60, 2827–2838.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Haines-Young, R., & Potchin, M. (2009). Methodologies for defining and assessing ecosystem services. Nottingham: Centre for Environmental Management, University of Nottingham.Google Scholar
  33. Hajjar, R., Jarvis, D., & Gemmill-Herren, B. (2008). The utility of crop genetic diversity in maintaining ecosystem services. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 123(4), 261–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Harvey, D. (1996). Justice, nature and the geography of difference. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  35. Harvey, M., & Pilgrim, M. (2011). The new competition for land: Food, energy, and climate change. Food Policy, 36, S40–S51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hodgson, J. A., Kunin, W. E., Thomas, C. D., Benton, T. G., & Gabriel, D. (2010). Comparing organic farming and land sparing: Optimizing yield and butterfly populations at a landscape scale. Ecology Letters, 13, 1358–1367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Horlings, L. G., & Marsden, T. K. (2011). Towards the real green revolution? Exploring the conceptual dimensions of a new ecological modernisation of agriculture that could ‘feed the world. Global Environmental Change, 21(2), 441–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kelsey Jack, B., Kousky, C., & Sims, K.R (2008). Designing payments for ecosystem services: Lessons from previous experience with incentive-based mechanisms. Proceedings of National Academic Science, 105(28), 9465–9470.Google Scholar
  39. Kosoy, N., & Corbera, E. (2010). Payments for ecosystem services as commodity fetishism. Ecological Economics, 69, 1228–1236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lang, T. (2009). Reshaping the food system for ecological public health. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, 4(3–4), 2009.Google Scholar
  41. Lang, T., Barling, D., & Caraher, M. (2009). Food policy: Integrating health, environment and society. Oxford: University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. LUC. (2009). Provision of ecosystem services through the environmental stewardship scheme. LUC: Bristol.Google Scholar
  43. Ludwig, D. (2001). The era of management is over. Ecosystems, 4(8), 758–764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. MA. (2005a). Millennium ecosystem assessment: Ecosystems and human well-being. Washington DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  45. MA. (2005b). Current states and trends assessment. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  46. MA. (2005c). Scenarios assessment. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  47. Maye, D., & Kirwan, J. (2013). Food security: A fractured consensus. Journal of Rural Studies, 29, 1–6.Google Scholar
  48. McAfee, K., & Shapiro, E. N. (2010). Payments for ecosystem services in Mexico: Nature, neoliberalism, social movements, and the state. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 100(3), 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Milder, J. C., Scherr, S., & Bracer, C. (2010). Trends and future potential of payment for ecosystem services to alleviate rural poverty in developing countries. Ecology and Society, 15(2), 4.Google Scholar
  50. Montgomery, D. (2007). Dirt: The erosion of civilizations. California: University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Murphy, S. (2010). Biofuels: Finding a sustainable balance between food and energy. In G. Lawrence, K. Lyons, & T. Wallington (Eds.), Food security, nutrition and sustainability (pp. 224–237). London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  52. Nedkov, S., & Burkhard, B. (2012). Flood regulating ecosystem services—mapping supply and demand, in the Etropole municipality, Bulgaria. Ecological Indicators, 21, 67–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Nelson, E., Montgomery, C. A., Conte, M., et al. (2011a). The provisioning value of timber and non timber forest products. In P. Karieva, H. Tallis, T. H. Ricketts, et al. (Eds.), Natural capital: Theory & practice of m a pping ecosystem services (pp. 129–149). Oxford: University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Nelson, E., Wood, S., Koo, J., et al. (2011b). Provisioning and regulatory ecosystem services values in agriculture. In P. Karieva, H. Tallis, T. H. Ricketts, et al. (Eds.), Natural capital: Theory & practice of mapping ecosystem services (pp. 150–167). Oxford: University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Norton, L. R., Inwood, H., Crowe, A., et al. (2010). Trailing a method to quantify the cultural services of the English Landscape using Countryside Survey Data. Land Use Policy, 29, 449–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. O’Neill, J. (2007). Markets, deliberation and environment. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  57. Pearce, D., Ozdemiroglu, E., et al. (2002). Economic valuation with stated preference techniques. London: DTLGR.Google Scholar
  58. Peck, J., & Tickell, A. (2002). Neoliberalising space. Antipode, 34, 380–404. Google Scholar
  59. Plieninger, T., & Bieling, C. (2012) (Eds.) Resilience and the cultural landscape understanding and managing change in human-shaped environments. Cambridge: University Press.Google Scholar
  60. Popkin, B. M. (1994). The nutrition transition in low income countries: An emerging crisis. Nutrition Reviews, 52, 285–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Popkin, B. M. (1998). The nutrition transition and its health implications in lower income countries. Nutrition Reviews, 1, 5–21.Google Scholar
  62. Power, A. G. (2010). Ecosystem services and agriculture: Tradeoffs and synergies. Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society B, 365, 2959–2971.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Rayner, G., & Lang, T. (2012). Ecological public health: Reshaping the conditions for good health. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  64. Robertson, M. (2012). Measurement and alienation: Making a world of ecosystem services. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 37(3), 386–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rosillo-Call, F., & Johnson, F. X. (2010). Food versus fuel. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  66. Rossing, W. A. H., Zander, P., Josien, E., et al. (2007). Integrative modelling approaches for analysis of impact of multifunctional agriculture: A review for France, Germany and The Netherlands. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 120, 41–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Royal Society. (2008). Reaping the benefits: Science and the sustainable intensification of agriculture. London: Royal Society.Google Scholar
  68. Sagoff, M. (2004). Price, principle, and the environment. Cambridge: University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Sandhu, H., Wratten, S., & Cullen, R. (2010). The role of supporting ecosystem systems in conventional and organic arable farmland. Ecological Complexity, 7(3), 302–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Swinton, S., Lupi, F., Robertson, G. P., & Hamilton, S. K. (2007). Ecosystem services and agriculture: Cultivating agricultural ecosystem for diverse benefits. Ecological Economics, 64(2), 245–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Tomlinson, I. (2013). Doubling food production to feed the 9 billion: A critical perspective on a key discourse of food security in the UK. Journal of Rural Studies, 29, 81–90.Google Scholar
  72. UK NEA. (2011). The UK national ecosystem assessment. Cambridge: UNEP-WCMC.Google Scholar
  73. Vandermeer, J. H., van Noordwijk, M., Anderson, J., et al. (1998). Global change and multi-species agroecosystems: Concepts and issues. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 67, 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Vatn, A. (2002). Multifunctional agriculture: Some consequences for international trade regimes. European Review of Agricultural Economics, 29, 309–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Wilson, G. A. (2007). Multifunctional agriculture: A transition theory perspective. Wallingford: CAB International.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Winter, M., & Lobley, M. (Eds.) (2009). What is land for? The food, fuel and climate change debate. London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  77. Winter, M., Oliver, D. M., Fish, R., et al. (2010). Catchments, sub-catchments and private spaces: Scale and process in managing microbial pollution from source to sea. Environmental Science & Policy, 14, 315–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Yusoff, K. (2011). The valuation of nature: The natural choice white paper. Radical Philosophy, 170, 2–7.Google Scholar
  79. Zecca, A., & Chiari, L. (2010). Fossil-fuel constraints on global warming. Energy Policy, 38(1), 1–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Zhang, W., Ricketts, T. H., Kremen, C., et al. (2007). Ecosystem services and disservices to agriculture. Ecological Economics, 64(2), 253–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Rural Policy ResearchCollege of Social Sciences and International StudiesExeter, DevonUK

Personalised recommendations