Farmers’ interest in nature contributes to higher levels of biodiversity

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Biodiversity in European farmlands is decreasing. Diversity is lost in crop varieties as well as in non-crop species; on the farms and in the landscapes surrounding them. This decrease is frequently attributed to an intensification of farming.

In a study recently published in the International Journal of Ecology, centre researcher Wijnand Boonstra together with colleagues from the Swedish Agricultural University look at how farmers’ interest in nature influences biodiversity in and around their fields.

The study shows a positive correlation between farmers’ interest in nature and biodiversity of the agricultural landscape in which their farms are situated. It also highlights a negative relation between crop density and biodiversity. These results lead the authors to conclude that farmers not solely work to optimize crop production to increase income. Farm practices are also guided by non-economic considerations, which are rooted in traditions, habits, values and interests.

“Farmers experience nature and biodiversity through management of their farms. They value and appreciate these experiences – hearing a skylark sing or noticing seasonal change – which can develop into an interest in nature. This interest, in turn, may both influence and be influenced by the landscape and crop composition on the farm,” says Boonstra.

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