Surrounding habitats mediate the trade-off between land-sharing and land-sparing agriculture in the tropics

Gilroy, James J., Edwards, Felicity A., Medina Uribe, Claudia A., Haugaasen, Torbjørn, and Edwards, David P. (2014) Surrounding habitats mediate the trade-off between land-sharing and land-sparing agriculture in the tropics. Journal of Applied Ecology, 51 (5). pp. 1337-1346.

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Abstract

1. Two strategies are often promoted to mitigate the effects of agricultural expansion on biodiversity: one integrates wildlife-friendly habitats within farmland (land sharing), and the other intensifies farming to allow the offset of natural reserves (land sparing). Their relative merits for biodiversity protection have been subject to much debate, but no previous study has examined whether trade-offs between the two strategies depend on the proximity of farmed areas to large tracts of natural habitat.

2. We sampled birds and dung beetles across contiguous forests and agricultural landscapes (low-intensity cattle farming) in a threatened hotspot of endemism: the Colombian Chocó-Andes. We test the hypothesis that the relative biodiversity benefits of either strategy depend partially on the degree to which farmlands are isolated from large contiguous blocks of forest.

3. We show that distance from forest mediates the occurrence of many species within farmland. For the majority of species, occurrence on farmland depends on both isolation from forest and the proportionate cover of small-scale wildlife-friendly habitats within the farm landscape, with both variables having a similar overall magnitude of effect on occurrence probabilities.

4. Simulations suggest that the biodiversity benefits of land sharing decline significantly with increasing distance from forest, but land sparing benefits remain consistent. In farm management units situated close to large contiguous forest (<500 m), land sharing is predicted to provide equal benefits to land sparing, but land sparing becomes increasingly superior in management units situated further from forest (1500 m). The predicted biodiversity benefits of land sparing are similar across all distances, provided that sparing mechanisms genuinely deliver protection for contiguous forest tracts.

5. Synthesis and applications: the persistence of bird and dung beetle communities in low-intensity pastoral agriculture is strongly linked to the proximity of surrounding contiguous forests. Land-sharing policies that promote the integration of small-scale wildlife-friendly habitats might be of limited benefit without simultaneous measures to protect larger blocks of natural habitat, which could be achieved via land-sparing practices. Policymakers should carefully consider the extent and distribution of remaining contiguous natural habitats when designing agri-environment schemes in the tropics.

Item ID: 36309
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2664
Keywords: agri-environment schemes, agroecosystems, biodiversity conservation, farming, food security, habitat loss, land sharing, land sparing, primary forest, tropical Andes
Additional Information:

This article was selected as Editor's Choice for the October 2014 issue: http://www.journalofappliedecology.org/view/0/jpeeditorschoice515.html

Funders: Research Council of Norway (RCN)
Projects and Grants: RCN grant no. 208836
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2014 10:33
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070101 Agricultural Land Management @ 30%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 40%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050211 Wildlife and Habitat Management @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9609 Land and Water Management > 960904 Farmland, Arable Cropland and Permanent Cropland Land Management @ 30%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960607 Rural Land Evaluation @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 30%
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