Conservation of biodiversity can benefit agriculture through its provisioning of intermediate ecosystem services. It is therefore argued that ecological intensification—whereby farmers take measures to boost flows of intermediate ecosystem services, such as creating new habitat for pollinating insects—could be used to boost productivity and replace environmentally damaging inputs; and thereby maintain high food production while simultaneously reducing environmental degradation.
In order to evaluate the full potential of ecological intensification to meet these challenges efficiently (i.e., in the best possible way) it is necessary to be able to optimize multiple intermediate ecosystem services generated by both above and below ground organisms (here pollination, biological control and soil ecosystem services). For the first time we test an integrated ecological-economic modelling approach for optimizing multiple ecosystem services in real agricultural landscapes. In our approach we link an empirical economic optimization model (ES-Farm) to a GIS based ecosystem service production function model (Multi-PF), which together can be used to optimize farmers’ land-use decisions and associated flows of ecosystem services.
The results indicate that ecological intensification has the potential to boost future agricultural productivity and farm incomes while reducing environmental degradation, but it will involve potentially substantial short-term costs to achieve sustainably higher levels of services in the future.
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