Current conservation policies risk accelerating biodiversity loss

Published on 4 July 2023

ACCESS CO-Investigator Ian Bateman at the University of Exeter and Andrew Balmford at the University of Cambridge write in their latest paper for Nature that three approaches that aim to cut the harms of agriculture — land sharing, rewilding and organic farming — risk driving up food imports and causing environmental damage overseas. They suggest an alternative approach is both effective and cheaper.

“A more fundamental and massively under-recognized problem is that both government policy and much academic debate have focused too narrowly on the local effects of a given approach, rather than on its overall (often long-distance) impacts. Indeed, this tendency to ignore downstream consequences — even as much better tools and data become available to track and quantify such impacts — is causing significant problems across a range of conservation and climate policies.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Modelling approaches are now being developed so that the information that is already available can significantly improve decision-making around agriculture and the environment. Using the wealth of evidence from research to guide agricultural policy could better reconcile conservation with people’s need for food. It could also pave the way for the evidence-based decision-making that is urgently needed across a broad sweep of environmental challenges.”

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