Research goals

Research context

           Agricultural landscapes occupy 40% of the available land area in Europe. They play an important role in providing habitat for wild plants and animals that contribute significantly to agricultural production through services such as crop pollination and control of crop pests. In many regions farm fields are becoming ever larger, and many agricultural regions are now dedicated to a small number of crop types. What is the relationship between farming systems, farmers' perception and agricultural landscapes? How did these changes in farmland pattern affect farmland wildlife and the services they provide for agriculture?
          Agricultural landscapes which contain significant areas of semi-natural lands have higher wildlife diversity and better ecosystem services. However, policies encouraging semi-natural field margins or semi-natural strips within crop fields require taking crop area out of production, which is often not feasible. It has been suggested that, in addition to the area of semi-natural habitats, the spatial heterogeneity of the cropped lands may be positively related to wild plant and animal diversity and to their provision of ecosystem services. Is it possible to build collectively acceptable guidelines that will create spatial patterns of farmland that promote biodiversity-based ecosystem services without taking land out of production?


Research objective

The aim of FarmLand is to investigate whether modifying crop compositional and configurational heterogeneity (see graph below) is possible and whether this would benefit biodiversity and ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes. This has not been attempted so far at such a scale and through such an integrated approach.

Main research questions

To meet this objective, FarmLand is asking the following questions:

  1. What is the relationship between farming systems and crop heterogeneity?
  2. What is the relationship between farmers perceptions and farming systems?
  3. How do farmers perceive crop heterogeneity, biodiversity and ecosystem services?
  4. Does crop heterogeneity influence biodiversity?
  5. Does crop heterogeneity influence regulating (pollination, biological control), supporting and cultural ecosystem services?
  6. What measures of farmland biodiversity are most strongly related to provision of ecosystem services?
  7. How can we collectively build acceptable guidelines that will create spatial patterns of farmland that promote biodiversity-based ecosystem services?

Research approach

To answer these questions, FarmLand is developing a multi-disciplinary, multi-region and multi-taxa approach:

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