Dossier Biodiversity and ecosystem services in relation to agriculture

How do structural elements in our landscape, from small forests and roadsides to highways, influence the temperature and the presence of insects in a nearby field? And how do temperature and local insect community in turn influence crop growth on a field? ILVO together with UGent investigated the link between landscape and functional agrobiodiversity with the help of citizen scientists and their 40 square-meter gardens in the citizen science project BEL-Landschap (2018 and 2019).

What does ILVO do?

  • Group of people outside looking together at a piece of paper on the ground
    Together with 90 volunteers, ecological processes such as plant growth and pest control were monitored weekly in square-meter gardens.

Landscape-scale biodiversity under pressure

The diversity of biological life (biodiversity) in the agricultural landscape is under pressure. Intensification of agriculture in the recent past has led at the field level to economies of scale and increased use of fertilizers and pesticides, among others. At the landscape level, it has led to the disappearance of semi-natural elements. These are green elements that are strongly influenced by humans, such as hedges, hedgerows, wood edges, tree rows, forest fragments but also grass verges, field edges, flower meadows or extensively managed grasslands. Populations of animal and plant species tied to agricultural land - so-called "farm nature" - have declined sharply or disappeared due to the disappearance of these semi-natural elements. For example, a major loss of arthropods such as insects is reported. Field birds such as the skylark are also declining sharply in rural areas.

Ecosystem services: the services that biodiversity provides us

In recent years, it has been shown that this loss of biodiversity also affects human well-being. After all, wild animals and plants provide numerous services that are crucial for producing food and creating a livable environment. Examples include wild bees, bumblebees and hoverflies that are responsible for pollinating crops, natural enemies that help suppress pest species, and trees and shrubs that produce wood but also help define the character of landscapes. These services to human well-being are called ecosystem services ( ecosysteemdiensten) provided here by the contemporary agricultural ecosystem.

See also