No. 30




Natural Biodiversity in Agricultural Landscapes: An Important Component of Sustainable Food Pro-duction

06 June 2022


RiTo No. 30, 2014

  • Aveliina Helm

    Aveliina Helm

    Professor of Restoration Ecology, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu

The intensification of agricultural land use that took place during the last century has led to an extensive decline in biodiversity.

Intensive agriculture affects the biodiversity of different species groups (including soil fauna) both through habitat fragmentation and loss, and through the use of harmful agricultural practices. The increase field massifs, the simplification of agricultural landscapes and the loss of various natural and semi-natural landscape features, together with mineral fertilisers and pesticides leaking into the environment, are the main causes of biodiversity loss in agricultural landscapes.  

Along with the loss of biodiversity, many of the benefits provided by nature, or the ecosystem services, that are essential for sustainable food production, including pollination and natural pest control potential, as well as other ecosystem functions related to biodiversity, such as prevention of nutrient leaching, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, enhancement of carbon sequestration in fields and grasslands, and erosion control, have become threatened. Within the framework of the RITA research project “Natural Biodiversity in Agricultural Landscapes”, researchers from the University of Tartu provided an overview of the main factors affecting the biodiversity of agricultural lands and prepared a package of recommendations on measures for restoring biodiversity, various ecosystem services and soil health in fields and grasslands. The research showed that there is a wide range of agroecological activities and practices that are neither costly nor difficult to implement, but could improve the biodiversity situation in both conventional agriculture and organic farming, and also contribute to the preservation of essential environmental benefits in agricultural landscapes.