Paper recommendation: bio-cultural refugia

By Jan Hanspach and Joern Fischer

Paper recommendation of: Bio-cultural refugia—safeguarding diversity of practices for food security and biodiversity. Barthel S, Crumley C, Svedin U. Glob Environ Change. 2013 Jun 28

With an increasing human population and climate change, food security is becoming a growing concern worldwide. One apparently easy solution might be to call for intensification to increase production, but conventional intensification, which is usually highly mechanized and demands high inputs of artificial fertilizers, as well as pesticides, is neither resilient nor sustainable. In the face of this, Barthel and colleagues offer new ideas to conceptualize how landscapes can produce food while also supporting high biodiversity. The authors introduce the concept of ‘biocultural refugia’ – landscapes where traditional knowledge of land management is maintained and practiced, while, at the same time, ecological integrity and ecosystem services are sustained. In Europe, such areas are found primarily in remote or mountainous areas where land use has not (yet) been intensified. Recognizing and supporting the value of such areas as strongholds of cultural and natural diversity should encourage the continuation of traditional small-scale farming, thus increasing food security and maintaining heterogeneous landscapes that are key for the conservation of farmland biodiversity. Although such biocultural refugia might not be as efficient as modern, industrialized agricultural landscapes, they promise to be both resilient and sustainable in the long run. 
Overall, this is a very readable paper that offers a holistic and inspiring view on how to integrate food production and biodiversity conservation in the future.

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