Shark Bait Blog

Environment.. and Scuba Diving.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Data File 2 - Intensive Agriculture and its effects on 'Wild' and Agricultural BioDiversity

(photo courtesy of 'Tarquin')

Intensive agriculture reduces biodiversity –

'It is now widely accepted that changes in farming practices are the root cause of the large declines that have occurred in populations of most specialist farmland birds'

'Above ground, natural enemies and pollinators are essential for profitable and sustainable agriculture. Many modern agricultural practices (eg, monocultures, poor crop rotation, pesticides and heavy machinery) reduce biodiversity to low levels and trigger even greater adverse responses (eg, pesticide treadmills).'

'The industrial agriculture system consumes fossil fuel, water, and topsoil at unsustainable rates. It contributes to numerous forms of environmental degradation, including air and water pollution, soil depletion, diminishing biodiversity, and fish die-offs.'
- Abstract from 'How Sustainable Agriculture Can Address the Environmental and Human Health Harms of Industrial Agriculture.'
Authors - Leo Horrigan, Robert S. Lawrence, and Polly Walker
Published in - Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 110, Number 5, May 2002

'Among the key findings emerging from all countries involved in this project is that intensive agriculture can significantly reduce soil life forms and therefore its fertility and productivity,” said Mr Huising.

'Yet, the loss of biodiversity is alarmingly high worldwide. Up to 60,000 plant species could be lost by 2025 if the present rate of extinction is maintained. The FAO has estimated that, since 1900, about three-quarters of the genetic diversity of domestic agricultural crops has already been lost.'

'These locally diverse food production systems are under threat and, with them, the accompanying local knowledge, culture and skills of the food producers. With this decline, agricultural biodiversity is disappearing and the scale of loss is extensive and with the disappearance of harvested species, varieties and breeds goes a wide range of unharvested species.

* More than 90 per cent of crop varieties have disappeared from farmers' fields;

* Half of the breeds of many domestic animals have been lost.

* In fisheries, all the world's 17 main fishing grounds are now being fished at or above their sustainable limits, with many fish populations effectively becoming extinct.

The genetic erosion of agricultural biodiversity is also exacerbated by the loss of forest cover, coastal wetlands and other 'wild' uncultivated areas, and the destruction of the aquatic environment. This leads to losses of 'wild' relatives, important for the development of biodiversity, and losses of 'wild' foods essential for food provision, particularly in times of crisis.'

'Modern intensive agricultural grasslands are very different from the grasslands of even 50 years ago. At this time, many other plants, including different grass species, grew in the fields. Not only were these grasses of low yield but they were also of less nutritional value to livestock. Because the modern grassland contains few plant species, its biodiversity is much reduced.'


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