Research highlight

Ecology: Conservation and food system changes needed to bolster biodiversity


September 10, 2020

Declines in terrestrial biodiversity from habitat conversion could be reversed by adopting a combination of bold conservation methods and increases in the sustainability of the food system, a modelling study published in Nature suggests.

Human pressures, such as the destruction of natural habitats to make way for agriculture and forestry, are causing rapid declines in biodiversity, and placing at risk the ecosystem services upon which we depend. Ambitious targets for biodiversity have been proposed, but it is unclear how these targets can be achieved whilst retaining the ability to feed a growing population. Using land-use and biodiversity models, David Leclère and colleagues show how this is possible.

Conservationists need to increase the amount of actively managed land, restore degraded land and adopt generalized landscape-level conservation planning. Meanwhile, we need to eat fewer animal-derived calories, waste less food and find ways to intensify food production sustainably.

If this double-pronged strategy is followed, more than two thirds of future biodiversity losses from habitat conversion could be avoided, the authors suggest. However, they caution that other threats, such as climate change, must also be addressed to truly reverse biodiversity declines.

doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2705-y

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