Does organic farming affect biodiversity?

Feber, R, Johnson, P, Chamberlain, D, Firbank, L, Fuller, R, Hart, B and Manley, Will (2015) Does organic farming affect biodiversity? In: Wildlife Conservation on Farmland Volume 1: Managing for nature on lowland farms. Oxford Scholarship Online, Oxford, pp. 108-132. ISBN 9780198745488

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Farmland biodiversity in Europe has been declining for some time, particularly steeply in the second half of the twentieth century. The consensus is that agricultural intensification is largely responsible. Organic farming is a low intensity system, offering benefits to biodiversity. Using two paired-farm studies, we explored the responses of different taxonomic groups to organic farming. In the first, smaller-scale, study, positive impacts of organic farming on butterflies and spiders were found. In the second, large-scale, study of eighty-nine farm pairs across England, organic farming was mainly associated with positive effects on biodiversity, although there was substantial variation in the size of effects among taxonomic groups surveyed. The largest and most consistent (positive) effects were for plants and the smallest effects were for carabid beetles. Spiders were influenced by farming system, surrounding landscape, and their dispersal ability. Hunting spiders, which tend to have lower dispersal ability, were more abundant and species-rich on organic compared to conventional farms (this effect was more pronounced in landscapes with less arable). There were no farming system or landscape effects found on web-building spiders, which have generally higher dispersal abilities. There was little evidence that non-cropped habitat effects explained the observed differences for either group. The chapter suggests that the farming system differences for spiders in the crop were largely attributable to differences in crop management (such as reduced inputs of pesticides and fertilizers). The results highlight the importance of developing strategies for managing farmland at the landscape scale for most effective conservation of biodiversity.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: biodiversity, wildlife, conservation, farming, agriculture, human-wildlife conflict, agri-environment schemes, landscape
Divisions: Agriculture, Food and Environment
Depositing User: Marieke Guy
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2018 16:24
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2022 14:42

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