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Conserving Biological Diversity in Agricultural/Forestry Systems

Both high agricultural productivity and human health depend on the activity of a diverse natural biota and although efforts to curb the loss of biodiversity have intensified in recent years, they have not kept pace with the growing encroachment of human activities. An example of the economic benefits described is, $20 billion year spent worldwide on pesticides, but parasites and predators existing in natural ecosystems provide an estimated five to ten times this amount of the pest control, and without the existence of natural enemies, crop losses by pests in agriculture and forestry would be catastrophic and costs of chemical pest controls would escalate enormously.

The needs and activities of escalating numbers of humans are changing natural ecosystems at rapid rates. Millions of species live and carry out vital functions in the biosphere and are essential to society. Yet, the importance of most species of animals and plants -- the small organisms that make up more than 95% of all species -- is being overlooked. Because the organisms are small, the benefits to agriculture and forestry of these less-conspicuous organisms, such as arthropods and fungi, are often not recognized.

The evidence suggests that more biological diversity exists in the agricultural/forestry and other human-managed ecosystems because human-managed ecosystems cover a pproximately 95% of the terrestrial environment, whereas protected parks cover only 3.2% of this environment. Biological diversity in agricultural/forestry systems can be best conserved by:

  • maintaining abundant biomass/energy and plant and habitat diversity
  • conserving soil, water, and biomass resources
  • reducing the use of pesticides and similar toxic chemicals in agriculture and forestry

Maintaining this biological diversity is essential for productive agriculture and forestry, and ecologically sustainable agriculture and forestry are essential for maintaining biological diversity.

Recommended policies to enhance the conservation of biological diversity:

  • Develop more accurate measures for assessing the value that small and large organisms protecting the quality of the environment and work to disseminate this information to scientists, farmers, foresters, policy makers, and all concerned citizens.
  • Encourage ecologically sound and sustainable management practices in agriculture and forestry.
  • Adopt biological controls for pests and encourage greater use of biological resources for agriculture and forestry systems to replace pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals.
  • Encourage society to dedicate itself to protecting biological diversity to provide a quality environment for everyone and to have a productive, sustainable agriculture and forestry. Concern should not be for one species or one factor, but for the integrated management of the earth's natural resources as a whole.