By Joern Fischer
Phalan et al. just published a study in Science, in which they show that intensively using some land for agriculture while preserving the rest saves more biodiversity than ‘wildlife-friendly farming’ over large areas. This study is based on findings from India and Ghana.
To those who don’t know, there is a massive debate about this:
There is no scientific consensus on the generality of their findings.
I am deeply concerned that the media are latching on to this and over-interpreting it. Some people have now argued that even in the context of the European Union (which is very different from Ghana or India!) the benefits of wildlife-friendly agriculture are unproven and should be questioned.
Those engaged in this debate need to be more careful about what they say to the media. It is hugely irresponsible to further the belief that wildlife-friendly farming is essentially a waste of time and money. The ‘debate’ as it is carried out in the media (and some of the scientific literature) is incredibly simplistic, and ignores a multitude of facets that must not be ignored.
Based on our experience in Romania, one thing is certain: protected areas are not what’s keeping biodiversity, whereas low-intensity agriculture is vital. To those who don’t believe it, go in the field, and check for yourself.
Losing balance on this critically important issue is an invitation to those who favour agricultural intensification at all costs. To not see this is naive at best. As scientists we have a responsibility to be careful when we talk to the media, the public and policy makers.
This paper of mine tries to give a balanced overview of some of the key issues at stake.