Biodiversity has been a subject of much interest as of late. How can biodiversity be increased and preserved in current times, while still meeting the production needs of the world? A recent study done by Doreen Gabriel, Steven Sait, William Kunin, and Tim Benton analyzes the effects of organic versus conventional farming on biodiversity, and why organic has a positive impact on biodiversity.
To start, one of the biggest benefits of an organic approach is that it retains and protects biodiversity due to the decreased yield. Conventional farming methods are designed for the greatest yield and efficiency and have a negative effect on biodiversity. Organic farming, while it does produce a lesser yield, preserves the biodiversity of the area. When the land is being farmed in a lower intensity way, even in non-organic ways, biodiversity is higher than in high yield methods.
There are two methods of farming currently discussed in relation to maintaining biodiversity while balancing yield.
The first of these is called ‘land sharing’, in which low-intensity agriculture is employed across all of the available land. This allows for biodiversity to be maintained across the entirety of the available land, while the increased volume of land being used makes up for the lower yield.
The other is land sparing, where sections of land are chosen to farm at a higher intensity while leaving the other sections untouched. This way, the untouched sections maintain their biodiversity and the areas being farmed have a higher yield.
Which of these methods would be best to employ depends on the area and what is being farmed. If it is possible to use the land sharing method and increase biodiversity without decreasing yield, land sharing is likely the best option. If increasing biodiversity with land sharing comes at a high cost of yield, the better option is land sparing.
Mary Busby, a farmer who has been passionate about organic farming for many years, is optimistic about the ability to get high enough production with natural or organic farming methods. She suggests that transitioning from conventional methods to an approach based in many smaller local farms providing organic crops, similar to the photo shown on the right, would be the ideal way to keep production high enough while also maintaining biodiversity and healthy land.
Overall, this study shows that organic farming has a positive impact on biodiversity. The lower yield that organic farming provides allows for the land to stay healthy and diverse, while still providing produce.