Ecological Intensification

 

HIGHER YIELDS OF FOOD AND NUTRITION FROM THE SAME LAND SURFACE BY SUPPORTING BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES

 
The world needs a paradigm shift in agricultural development: from a ‘Green Revolution’ to an ‘Ecological Intensification’ approach.
— Wake Up Before It Is Too Late, UNCTAD Report
 

In partnership with the University of Reading School of Agriculture, Policy and Development (SAPD), the World Bee Project (WBP) vision is to contribute to a global shift towards ecological intensification.

The University of Reading is the most highly ranked UK institution for agriculture. It is in the top 1% worldwide. The shared expertise of the SAPD and the WPB enables our partnership to develop projects and build capacity to address global agricultural challenges and to ensure important impacts through wider engagement with the public, NGOs and policy makers.

The IPBES Report on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production recommends the "promotion of sustainable agriculture which helps to diversify the agricultural landscape and makes use of ecological processes as part of food production."

Ecological intensification has recently been developed and adopted as a key concept and driver for research and policy in sustainable agriculture. 

A holistic , regenerative approach, ecological intensification recognises the interdependence of all living systems. 

'Ecological Intensification' is a harmonious way of relating to the land, a concept for producing more from the same land surface. It is described as “a knowledge-intensive process that requires optimal management of nature’s ecological functions and biodiversity to improve agricultural system performance; efficiency and farmers’ livelihoods. It is about understanding how nature functions so we can harvest its resources without destroying it, producing more and breaking with practices based on excessive use of pesticides, chemical fertilisers, water and fossil fuels”. 

 
Long Horned Bee (Eucera longicornis)

Long Horned Bee (Eucera longicornis)

Red tailed Bumblebee (Bombus Lapidarius)

Red tailed Bumblebee (Bombus Lapidarius)

 
Flower-rich habitats attract diverse pollinators to pollinate crops and to eat pests

Flower-rich habitats attract diverse pollinators to pollinate crops and to eat pests

 

ECOLOGICAL INTENSIFICATION OF AGRICULTURE AND ECOLOGICAL INFRASTRUCTURE CAN TACKLE THE THREATS TO POLLINATOR DIVERSITY AND ABUNDANCE

Ecologically intensified farming develops, restores and regenerates the ecosystem services and biodiversity that are essential for sustainable agriculture. It enhances foraging resources for honeybees and diverse ‘wild’ pollinators and by conserving habitats, creating nesting sites and introducing diverse species of flowering plants it fosters more resilient and healthier pollinator populations. The boost in native biodiversity leads to a boost in pollination and in natural predators like ladybirds that eat aphids, and in turn a sustainable intensification of crops. By introducing zero tilling, carefully designed crop rotation, composting and avoiding excessive use of pesticides, chemical fertilisers, water and fossil fuels, it regenerates and even improves degraded land by restoring the natural ability of the microbiology present in healthy soil to hold carbon. 

The ecological intensification approach leads to higher yields from the same land surface, helping farmer adaptation to climate change and considerably improving the productivity of small-scale farmers and their livelihoods. This is important because farmer poverty poses long-term risks to sustainable agriculture.

The ecological intensification approach to farming is the long-term promising solution to pollination decline, food and nutrition insecurity and farmer poverty. 

To learn more please see this animated video. It was made within the framework of the EC’s 7th Framework Programme in partnership with the University of Reading and other universities.

 
The School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University of Reading. The University of Reading is the most highly ranked UK institution for agriculture. It is in the top 1% worldwide. 

The School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University of Reading. The University of Reading is the most highly ranked UK institution for agriculture. It is in the top 1% worldwide. 

 
We conducted the most thorough review of the science ever undertaken, sifting through all the available evidence, to provide governments with the best and latest evidence on pollinator decline. The UN report is a good start, but now we need action. Doing nothing is a big risk that could endanger the global supply of nutritious foods and the livelihoods of millions of people.
— Professor Simon Potts, University of Reading, lead author IPBES Report on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production
 
The review shows that diverse pollinator populations are crucial for a wide range of factors influencing human well-being, beyond the immediate pollination of crops. Importantly, the work shows how ecological intensification of agriculture and ecological infrastructure can tackle the threats to pollinator diversity and abundance.
— Lena Wilfert, senior lecturer in molecular evolution, University of Exeter, UK
 
Animal pollinated crops supply many vital micronutrients and a lack of such crops due to pollinator decline could lead to deficiencies and other human disease.
— Norman Carreck, Bee Expert, Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, University of Sussex, UK
 
The world needs a paradigm shift in agricultural development: from a ‘green revolution’ to an ‘ecological intensification’ approach. This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high external- input-dependent industrial production towards mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers. We need to see a move from linear to a holistic management, which recognizes that a farmer is not only a producer of agricultural goods but also a manager of an agro-ecological system that provides quite a number of public goods and services (e.g. water, soil, landscape, energy, biodiversity, and recreation.)
— Wake Up Before It Is Too Late, UNCTAD Report
 
The next few decades will witness a rapidly increasing demand for agricultural products. This growing demand needs to be met largely through intensification (produce more from the same land surface) because there is little scope for an increase in agricultural area.
Ecological intensification is the optimization of all provisioning, regulating and supporting ecosystem services in the agricultural production process and has been proposed as a promising solution.
— FAO 2015 Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition
 

THE BEE SYMBOLISES OUR VISION OF A THRIVING FUTURE FOR POLLINATORS, PEOPLE AND THE PLANET