Edited by Guy M. Robinson and Doris A. Carson
Chapter 3: Effects of agricultural activities on biodiversity and ecosystems: organic versus conventional farming
In this chapter, I review the effects of farming practices on biodiversity, focusing in particular on the potential role of organic agriculture in preserving biodiversity. From the literature review, it emerges that organic farming, when properly managed, can provide greater potential for biodiversity than its conventional counterpart, as a result of greater habitat variability and more wildlife-friendly management practices, along with the exclusion of agri-chemical pesticides. Organic agriculture also has positive effects on soil biophysical and ecological characteristics – long-term soil fertility. Indeed, an increasing body of evidence indicates that landscape heterogeneity is a key factor in promoting biodiversity in the agricultural landscape. Benefits may be also achieved by conventional agriculture when reducing the inputs of agri-chemicals and better integrating crop production with soil protection and landscape ecological structures. I highlight that farming and environmental conservation have to be understood within the whole structure of the food system, and that analysis should be made and actions towards agricultural sustainability and biodiversity conservation should be taken accordingly. That means working in parallel on the social, economic and political dimensions of our society. Individual farmers cannot take that challenge alone, or bear the whole cost of the effort. Long-term experiments and multicriteria analysis of the range of feasibility and viability of organic and low-input agriculture should also be carried out in a number of different scenarios.
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