Problem: Biodiversity in the Swedish agricultural landscapes is suffering heavily from habitat degradation and losses. Agri-environmental schemes have been introduced as a measure to alleviate the losses of species. It is hoped that paying for habitat management will encourage farmers to protect biodiversity, and hence maintain associated ecosystem services, such as pollination and pest control. The cost-effectiveness of different kinds of agri- environmental support has, however, not been rigorously evaluated.
Aim: The aims of this research are threefold:
This will be achieved through a trans-disciplinary approach across the fields of ecology and economics. Ultimately, we expect to provide some policy recommendations for how to achieve more biodiversity at less cost.
Background: While traveling through the agricultural countryside of Sweden one may notice that the fields are often broken up by small landscape elements such as; stonewalls (Photo 1), field islets, drainage ditches, field margins (Photo 2) etc. These elements provide variation in what otherwise can be a quite monocultural landscape, and hence serve as a refuge for a variety of species that have been pushed back by modern agricultural practices.
Photo 1. Stonewall
Photo 2. Field margin
Species like the bumblebees (Photo 3) and ground beetles may serve as eye candy to enthusiastic entomologists, but they also function as pollinators and natural pest controls, respectively. When these functions provide benefit to us humans (recreational, economic or other benefits) they become so called ecosystem services. Some of the services are taken utterly for granted, and are not missed until they are lost, forcing people and society to adopt costly means of upholding them in artificial ways (e.g. hand pollination of fruit trees).
Photo 3. Bumblee bee (Scientific name)
Despite all this, large gaps still exist in our knowledge of how, and the extent which pollinators and natural enemies to crop pest provide ecosystem services. Furthermore, there is insufficient knowledge of how landscape structure and history affect biodiversity in these habitats. These aspects need to be thoroughly investigated when developing the ecological-economic model for evaluating the cost-effectiveness of the conservation measures.