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Changing the Agriculture & Environment Conversation

April 28, 2017 |

This article was originally published on Nature

“The land sharing/sparing debate has stagnated. Finding a way forward requires that we ask new questions and, crucially, focus on human well-being and ecosystem services.

One of the most critical problems of our time is guaranteeing food security for all while at the same time shrinking agriculture’s overlarge environmental footprint. In environmental and agricultural circles, a debate has arisen as to the best way to do this. Some argue that achieving balance will require land sparing, while others argue that land sharing is a better solution. The former propose an agricultural landscape in which some land is set aside for wildlife and the rest farmed intensively for the highest possible yields; the latter propose an increase in farmed land, but use of wildlife-friendly techniques such as retaining hedgerows. This debate is being spurred on by increasing recognition of the role of agriculture in both poverty alleviation1,2 and environmental degradation3,4 and a sense that the political will to do something about it might be close at hand.

While the specific terms ‘land sparing’ and ‘land sharing’ were only first mentioned in the literature in 20055, people have been arguing about their relative merits for a much longer time6. Norman Borlaug claimed that the green revolution technologies implemented in the 1960s allowed more food to be grown on less land, leaving more land available for conservation7. This was refuted by others, who found that countries where yields were increasing were actually expanding agricultural land area8. This debate was eventually codified into the now-familiar land sharing/land sparing framework by Green et al., who developed hypotheses about when each strategy was most likely to be effective5…”

Read on at: Nature: Ecology & Evolution.

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