The land sparing versus land sharing debate has already had a significant history and was particularly active during the last decade. Studies carried out mostly by ecologists and agronomists have clarified a number of issues related to best land use strategies in different landscapes, establishing that the best strategy depends first on the response of biodiversity to anthropogenic pressures, and can vary with the spatial scale of the analysis. We argue that the first contribution of an economist’s perspective is to place the idea of social efficiency, i.e., the improvement in human welfare from limited resources, at the heart of discussions and models concerning the food/biodiversity nexus. The purpose and meaning of economic approaches, whether incorporated into biophysical analyses or based on their results, is to identify and understand the logic and behaviour of agents and their impact on land use. We highlight some significant results derived from modelling work. In particular, it is shown that the assumption of fixed production target used in many works is unrealistic. We put into perspective recent work that analysed the effects of price changes and the impact of agricultural markets on land use. We conclude on the importance of integrating the economic mechanisms that guide individual and collective behaviours, in the design of local policy mix between land sparing and land sharing.
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If the ecological conditions allow it in the long run, an openfield of organic production would fit the land sharing concept. In fact, the literature on agroecology is often artificially linked to the LS² debate (as well as the debate on ecological intensification).
This effect is ambiguous and depends on the shape of the demand function for food. Intensification (assuming higher profit) increases the share of intensive agriculture, but may reduce more than proportionally the share of extensive farming if demand has a low price-elasticity. The overall result may depend on some type of rebound effect (see Lambin and Meyfroidt 2011).
The consumers’ surplus is the gain obtained by consumers when they can purchase a product for a price that is less than the highest price that they would be willing to pay it. The producers’ surplus is the gain obtained by producers when they sell their product at a price higher than the least that they would be willing to sell for, or what it cost to produce it. The total surplus (consumers’ and producers’ surplus) is equivalent to the net economic value.
It is perhaps not superfluous to remind that a large part of the populations suffering from hunger are poor peasants: “Today, nearly two-thirds of the world’s hungry people are farmers and pastoralists who live in marginal lands in Asia and Africa” (Borlaug 2007).
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A first version of this paper was presented at the 3rd International Conference: Biodiversity and Food Security—From Tradeoffs to Synergies, Aix-en-Provence, October 29–31, 2014. The authors wish to express their sincere thanks to the organizers and participants of the conference, to Vincent Martinet (INRA Eco-Pub, Paris) for friendly and useful comments on an earlier version of the text, and to three referees whose criticisms and suggestions have indeed contributed to improve this text.
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Salles, JM., Teillard, F., Tichit, M. et al. Land sparing versus land sharing: an economist’s perspective. Reg Environ Change 17, 1455–1465 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-017-1142-4
- Economic analysis
- Land sharing
- Land sparing