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Joint Production of Food and Wildlife: Uniform Measures or Nature Oases?

Abstract

Intensive agriculture is often bad for wildlife. Does this imply that a goal to boost wildlife on agricultural land is best met through a general reduction in intensity? We argue that such an approach may not be optimal, since cost functions for provision of wildlife on agricultural land may be non-convex, due to fixed costs associated with such provision. This implies that, even when farms are identical, it may be preferable to split them into groups of high providers and low providers. We test our hypothesis in a study of the optimal management of mown grasslands in southern Sweden, where the two products are silage and successful reproduction of ground-nesting birds, and the variable controlled by the farmer is the date of the first mowing. We show that the optimal solution is likely to involve some farmers maintaining profit-maximizing practices while other—identical—farmers delay their first mowing significantly. The superiority of such split solutions may have major implications for agricultural policy.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Due to the context-dependence of the relationship between biodiversity and agriculture we focus on one region alone. In further work it would be interesting to extend the analysis to other regions.

  2. 2.

    According to the EU’s General Budget for Agriculture and Rural Development, direct payments totalled €39 billion in 2010.

  3. 3.

    For discussion of this, and alternative, hypotheses for explaining effects on wildlife of farmland conservation initiatives see Kleijn et al. (2011) and Kleijn and Sutherland (2003).

  4. 4.

    Note that \(n\) may be \(0\) or greater.

  5. 5.

    Note that equivalent results are obtained by assuming a positive price of nature \(\lambda _z\).

  6. 6.

    Recall Proposition 5, and note that given a fixed cost of nature production the cost function for nature production must lie above \(f(z)\) for sufficiently low levels of nature production.

  7. 7.

    Note that breeding time is thus \(t-U\).

  8. 8.

    To show that the second derivative is positive note that

    $$\begin{aligned} \frac{{\mathrm{d}}^2 c}{{\mathrm{d}}z^2} = \frac{{\mathrm{d}}({\mathrm{d}}c / {\mathrm{d}}z)}{{\mathrm{d}}t}\Big / \frac{{\mathrm{d}}z}{{\mathrm{d}}t}, \end{aligned}$$

    and show that each of the factors in the RHS are positive.

  9. 9.

    Note also that spatial aspects are also relevant to the sparing–sharing dilemma. If land potentially used for production of both food and nature is non-homogeneous then the relevance of spatial aspects is obvious; however, even when land is homogeneous the spatial arrangement of nature oases given a split solution is likely to be important. Consider for instance the debate concerning green corridors, see e.g. Simberloff et al. (1992).

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Correspondence to Rob Hart.

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We thank Henrik Smith, Johan Ekroos, Jan Clough and Sören Höjgård for valuable discussions on the land sharing–sparing dilemma. OO and MB were partly financed by two grants from FORMAS, ‘More biodiversity at less cost’ to OO and ‘SAPES’ to Henrik Smith.

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Hart, R., Brady, M. & Olsson, O. Joint Production of Food and Wildlife: Uniform Measures or Nature Oases?. Environ Resource Econ 59, 187–205 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10640-013-9723-2

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Keywords

  • Agriculture
  • Biodiversity
  • Ecological–economic modelling
  • Land sparing
  • Land sharing