By Joern Fischer
Many of you will have followed the debate in our blog on land sparing versus land sharing. I actually feel we made a lot of headway in our little discussion — thanks specifically to Ben Phalan for answering to our posts! The bottom line is that a mix of approaches is needed. I would never argue that we should do away with protected areas; and Ben highlighted that we also need to try to limit the amount of land into which agriculture expands. To this extent, we agree (I think); this in its own right is a very good outcome for a scientific debate!
In the literature, things still look a little more polarised. I felt that the original paper by Ben Phalan et al. (again, check our previous blog entry if you don’t know what I’m talking about) was too much in favour of land sparing. I also felt the conceptual underpinnings of the conclusions were too simple — and so I decided to write a response, with a bunch of colleagues from around the world. The response has now been published in Science.
In a nutshell, we argue that:
- effective protected areas in poor countries are often less likely than effective land sharing;
- sometimes both yields and biodiversity can be high;
- some regions are simply not suitable for intensive use (e.g. Australia’s wheat-sheep belt);
- the choice in reality is not between land sparing or land sharing: but bits of both options will be important (a point I made also several years ago in a paper in Frontiers);
- more food production does not guarantee less hunger, unless issues in unequal food distribution are addressed;
- overall, we found it is essential that social issues are treated as a core part of the analysis on sustainable food production — partial solutions to ‘disciplinary subsets’ of the overall problem are unlikely to be optimal in the bigger picture.