Landis, D. A. 2016. Designing agricultural landscapes for biodiversity services. Basic and Applied Ecology doi: 10.1016/j.baae.2016.07.005
Sustainable and resilient agricultural systems are needed to feed and fuel a growing human population. However, the current model of agricultural intensification which produces high yields has also resulted in a loss of biodiversity, ecological function, and critical ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes. A key consequence of agricultural intensification is landscape simplification, where once heterogeneous landscapes contain increasingly fewer crop and non-crop habitats. Landscape simplification exacerbates biodiversity losses which leads to reductions in ecosystem services on which agriculture depends. In recent decades, considerable research has focused on mitigating these negative impacts, primarily via management of habitats to promote biodiversity and enhance services at the local scale. While it is well known that local and landscape factors interact, modifying overall landscape structure is seldom considered due to logistical constraints. I propose that the loss of ecosystem services due to landscape simplification can only be addressed by a concerted effort to fundamentally redesign agricultural landscapes. Designing agricultural landscapes will require that scientists work with stakeholders to determine the mix of desired ecosystem services, evaluate current landscape structure in light of those goals, and implement targeted modifications to achieve them. I evaluate the current status of landscape design, ranging from fundamental ecological principles to resulting guidelines and socioeconomic tools. While research gaps remain, the time is right for ecologists to engage with other disciplines, stakeholders, and policymakers in education and advocacy to foster agricultural landscape design for sustainable and resilient biodiversity services.
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