SLU news

Organic agriculture, biodiversity and ecosystem services

Published: 11 April 2012

Three researchers from SLU recently published an article about impacts from organic agricultural on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Camilla Winqvist, Johan Ahnström and Jan Bengtsson published the article in an issue of Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences on the theme of The Year in Ecology and Conservation Biology. The article summarizes the key findings of research on organic agriculture effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services, primarily during 2010 and 2011.

The article presents some of the research areas that have been thoroughly studied in recent years, mainly the development of research on the landscape around the studied fields or farms. It has been shown that the landscape appearance and distribution of different habitats affect the impact of organic farming.

Often one sees the greatest positive effect of organic farming in large-scale landscapes, while the effect is smaller, or non-existent, in small-scale landscapes. This is thought to be due to the fact that small-scale landscapes already contain a high biodiversity, so that organic farming does not cause any improvement.

Another area where it has been a lot of research the last few years is the so-called ecosystem services, i.e., services that nature performs and humans benefit from, economically or culturally. Examples in the agricultural landscape are crop pollination and pest control by natural enemies.

Studies of ecosystem services in relation to organic farming are still relatively few, so it is difficult to draw any general conclusions yet, but in many cases, ecosystem services are best on organic farms, but the surrounding landscape is also a strong factor.