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Cost-effective support to organic farming to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services
Organic farming is known to positively influence local biodiversity due to the absence of chemical pesticides and mineral fertilizers. However, the extent to which the conversion to organic farming could actually sustain biodiversity on the long term and at large spatial scales is still unknown. The main objective of the COST project is to find cost-effective allocations of organic farming in the landscapes to maximize biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services.

Organic farming is promoted through agri-environment schemes (AES) because it produces public goods such as biodiversity conservation. It is desirable that these schemes are based on evidence and are cost-effective in achieving the objectives of management. A problem with evaluating its cost-efficiency is that biodiversity can be seen at different scales. Today, evidence is weak to what extent organic farming benefit species conservation at large scales. Furthermore, support to organic farming has been questioned because resulting yield losses may compromise existing areas of high conservation concern, by forcing expansion of arable land at the expense of these conservation areas. However, effects of organic farming on biodiversity and crop production may vary strongly between landscapes and may even influence the efficiency of other schemes. In this project, we evaluate the cost-effectiveness of current AES supporting organic farming and compare it with alternative allocations between schemes and landscapes. We use a design that allows us to account for relevant sources of uncertainty, including variation over landscapes and within are between seasons.

More specifically we will:

1 Assess the marginal value of organic farming on biodiversity conservation in landscapes of varying complexity, which will be made by up-scaling estimates of butterfly diversity (used as a biodiversity indicator) to entire regions;

2 Investigate the extent to which organic farming and semi-natural pastures counteract homogenization of biodiversity between farms by evaluating beta-diversity and nestedness of butterfly communities, in particular if species with different ecological traits are differentially affected;

3 Measure mean and between-year stability of pollination of a flowering crop in relation to pollinator abundance and community composition, and how the relationship between pollinators and between-year pollination stability depend on the interactive effects of organic farming and preserving semi-natural pastures;

4 Assessing the cost-efficiency of the current uptake and spatial distribution of organic payments and support to grazing of semi-natural pastures in Scania relative to alternative allocations between AES and landscapes under budget or yield constraints.

Related publications

Cong R, Ekroos J, Smith HG, Brady MV (2016). Optimizing intermediate ecosystem services in agriculture using rules based on landscape composition and configuration indices. Ecological Economics 128, 214-223.

Ekroos J, Ödman AM, Andersson GKS, Birkhofer K., Herbertsson L, Klatt BK, Olsson O, Olsson PA, Persson AS, Prentice HC, Rundlöf M, Smith HG (2016). Sparing land for biodiversity at multiple spatial scales. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 3, 145.

Ekroos J, Olsson O, Rundlöf M, Wätzold F, Smith HG (2014). Optimizing agri-environment schemes for biodiversity, ecosystem services or both? Biological Conservation 172: 65-71.


Project leader

Professor Henrik Smith
Phone: +46 (0)46 222 93 79
henrik [dot] smith [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Participating researchers

Johan Ekroos
Henrik Smith
Mark Brady
William Sidemo Holm
Romain Carrié


Funded by


Centre for Environmental and Climate Research, CEC

Sölvegatan 37
223 62 Lund, Sweden

Visiting address
The Ecology building, Sölvegatan 37, Lund