Ecological Intensification

 

WORKING WITH NATURE

 

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 shared expertise 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. Our activities focus on conservation and management of insect pollinators and pollination services to crop production and the wider environment. We help develop the science underpinning the sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services to enhance and protect food and nutrition while minimising environmental impacts.

Ecological intensification has recently been developed and adopted as a key concept and driver for research and policy in sustainable agriculture. It is not merely a new approach, it is a complete shift in paradigm.

Ecological intensification sees problems as symptoms, it is a regenerating, holistic approach that supports food production and food and nutrition security while restoring the ecosystem services and biodiversity that are essential for sustainable agriculture.

 

THE AUTHORS OF A MAJOR UNITED NATIONS REPORT BLAME THE DECLINE OF POLLINATORS ON HABITAT LOSS, CLIMATE CHANGE AND FARMING METHODS

 
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, lead author, University of Reading, UK.
 
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
 

The report estimates that 1.4 billion jobs worldwide depend on pollinating insects such as bees, beetles and butterflies. Three quarters of the world’s crops, worth $500 billion, rely on nature’s pollinators, say the experts. In addition, the report highlights how safety procedures for new pesticides and genetically modified crops could be tightened to protect beneficial wild insects. Currently, regulators only require manufacturers to assess risks to managed honeybees, not wild species.

 
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
 

DEVELOPING EFFICIENCY WITHOUT SACRIFICING ECOLOGICAL OR HUMAN HEALTH

 

Ecological intensification involves working alongside biodiversity to increase soil and crop fertility, and to effectively manage biodiversity including insect pollinators, natural enemies and soil organisms to support sustainable food production for local growers by optimising interactions between pollinators, plants, animals, humans and the environment. The approach helps pollinators directly by conserving habitats, creating nesting sites and introducing foraging resources (flowering plants) that foster more resilient and healthier populations. It also seeks to understand the social and economic challenges facing farmers and how best practice for sustainable production can be incorporated into current practices.

Enhanced resilience of ecosystems, people, and communities is key to sustainability. Our approach helps diverse pollinators by conserving habitats and foraging resources . It recognises farmers as stakeholders in conserving biodiversity and solicits farmers as partners to create resilient landscapes that foster wildlife and preserve rural livelihoods and local knowledge. We align our efforts with existing efforts in protected conservation areas to achieve lasting outcomes at all levels.

 
Wildflower strips can attract insects to pollinate crops and to eat pests

Wildflower strips can attract insects to pollinate crops and to eat pests

 

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."

 
Bombus Muscorum queen bee, Pamela Marrone

Bombus Muscorum queen bee, Pamela Marrone

 
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
 

A BOOST IN NATIVE BIODIVERSITY MEANS A BOOST IN POLLINATOR DIVERSITY AND POLLINATION

 

Research shows us that even if we take out 8% of land for ecological intensification, the boost in native biodiversity means a boost in pollination and in natural predators like ladybirds that eat aphids, and in turn sustainable intensification of crops – producing just as much yields.

Research also suggests that often farmers turn to organic farming instead, but organic farming usually requires far more land for the same volume of produce and so is less efficient, and as most of the remaining uncultivated land is high value nature sites, organic farms would be unable to expand without causing further loss of habitat and damage to native biodiversity.

 
Mining Bee

Mining Bee

 
Pollination services are an ‘agricultural input’ that ensure the production of crops. All farmers, especially family farmers and smallholders around the world, benefit from these services. Improving pollinator density and diversity has a direct positive impact on crop yields, consequently promoting food and nutrition security. Hence, enhancing pollinator services is important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as for helping family farmers’ adaptation to climate change.
— José Graziano da Silva, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
 
 

THE BEE SYMBOLISES OUR ULTIMATE GOAL OF PLACING THE NATURAL WORLD AT THE HEART OF PUBLIC POLICY AND ENSHRINING ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION IN NATIONAL CONSTITUTIONS