By Dave Abson
It struck me that my previous post might possibly make me seem slightly clownish (I guess the balloon modelling did not help?). So here is a little bit of a scientific corrective:
It is now relatively well established that land-use diversity/habitat heterogeneity in agro-ecosystems plays a key role in the conservation of biodiversity, the maintenance of ecological functions and the provision of multiple ecosystem services. There is therefore a compelling argument that societies should encourage diverse agricultural landscapes. However, agricultural landscapes are generally not managed by societies. Farmers, have their own sets of priorities in the management of their land, primary amongst them is the need to maintain a viable and stable income. In a recent paper we explored the relations between agricultural land-use diversity and the level, volatility and resilience of farmed incomes over a period of 44 years in lowland agricultural landscapes in the UK.
Employing portfolio theory (from the finance literature) we found that there was a strong linear trade-off between the expected farmed income and the volatility of that income across landscapes. The stability and economic resilience of farmed incomes increased with increasing land-use diversity. From this we conclude that land-use diversity may have an important role in ensuring resilient agricultural incomes in the face of uncertain future market and environmental conditions, and that this economic resilience can be achieved while maintaining aggregate yield across landscapes. So what’s good for the goose (or assemblage of farmland bird species… see future post) may also be good for the gander (farmer).
The paper is open access and can be downloaded from here.