In agricultural landscapes, green infrastructure encompasses a wide range of non-cropped habitats (i.e. hedges, flower strips, semi-natural grasslands) that provide stable resources, as well as nesting and overwintering habitat to organisms in an otherwise highly disturbed agricultural landscapes. If well-designed and effectively managed, green infrastructure can enhance ecosystem service (ES) delivery by pollinators and natural enemies of pests, while at the same time allowing for intensive farming techniques within the fields, and contributing to biodiversity preservation.
While we have a fairly good understanding of the relationship between green infrastructure and biodiversity at the landscape level (Fig. 1a), we know very little about the relationship between biodiversity and the agronomic or economic benefits provided by ecosystem services in real-world landscapes, and their stability across time and changing climatic conditions (Fig .1b). It is furthermore unknown what relationship exists between the implementation of various ecological intensification approaches and the costs associated with them (Fig. 1c).
As a result we currently have no information on the net benefits (benefits minus costs) of the integration of multiple ecosystem services into farming practices (Fig. 1d). This makes it difficult to convince farmers that biodiversity can actually help them achieve the same or higher productivity with less or equal external inputs, both under present and future conditions. Likewise, this means the evidence base for policymakers attempting to jointly address food security, rural development and environmental goals is insufficient.
Aims and research questions
ECODEAL aims at
- improving our mechanistic understanding of the effects of green infrastructure (i.e. hedges, flower strips, semi-natural grasslands) at different spatial scales on crop ecosystem services,
- to provide recommendations on the scales at which sparing land from cultivation can support food production, biodiversity preservation and farm economic performance across a range of European agricultural systems.
We aim to do this by answering the following three questions:
- Which dimensions of biodiversity drive flow and stability of pollination & pest control services, and how do they change along gradients of green infrastructure? (Fig 1a,b).
- How are pollination, pest control, and the resulting yield benefits, facilitated by the density and quality of green infrastructure at different scales (Fig 1a,b)?
- What are the costs and benefits of establishing green infrastructure at different spatial scales, and the implications for the scales at which food production, ecosystem services and biodiversity preservation should be integrated (Fig 1c,d)?
Our approaches integrate analyses of existing database with complementary landscape-scale empirical work,species interaction and ecosystem service modelling, and economic models.