Assessing the impacts of agricultural intensification on biodiversity: a British perspective

Les G Firbank, Sandrine Petit, Simon Smart, Alasdair Blain, Robert J Fuller

Abstract

Agricultural intensification is best considered as the level of human appropriation of terrestrial net primary production. The global value is set to increase from 30%, increasing pressures on biodiversity. The pressures can be classified in terms of spatial scale, i.e. land cover, landscape management and crop management. Different lowland agricultural landscapes in Great Britain show differences among these pressures when habitat diversity and nutrient surplus are used as indicators. Eutrophication of plants was correlated to N surplus, and species richness of plants correlated with broad habitat diversity. Bird species diversity only correlated with habitat diversity when the diversity of different agricultural habitats was taken into account. The pressures of agricultural change may be reduced by minimizing loss of large habitats, minimizing permanent loss of agricultural land, maintaining habitat diversity in agricultural landscapes in order to provide ecosystem services, and minimizing pollution from nutrients and pesticides from the crops themselves. While these pressures could potentially be quantified using an internationally consistent set of indicators, their impacts would need to be assessed using a much larger number of locally applicable biodiversity indicators.

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Footnotes

  • One contribution of 15 to a Theme Issue ‘Sustainable agriculture II’.

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