Farming crucial for threatened species in developing world

Dec 05, 2011

A number of threatened species in the developing world are entirely dependent on human agriculture for their survival, according to new research by the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Published today in the journal Conservation Letters, the study concludes that many species, rather than just using farmland to supplement their , would actually be driven to extinction without it. Species such as the White-shouldered Ibis in Cambodia, the Sociable Lapwing in Kazakhstan and the Liben Lark in Ethiopia rely on local people and their agriculture.

Greatest benefit comes from local communities practising traditional agriculture with low . Valuable practices include on land where breed and feed, and growing which provide a rich source of food.

" in the developing world focus a lot of attention on and pristine habitats – so people have usually been seen as a problem. But there are a number of threatened species – particularly birds but probably a whole range of wildlife – which heavily depend on the farmed environment," said lead author Hugh Wright of UEA's School of Environmental Sciences.

"Many of the traditional farming systems that benefit these species are now under threat both from industrial, large-scale agriculture and from more local economic development. We need to identify valuable farmland landscapes and support local people so that they can continue their traditional farming methods and help maintain this unique biodiversity."

Conserving biodiversity by supporting or mimicking traditional farming methods has long been a feature in Europe, but it has rarely been applied in developing countries. The UEA researchers found at least 30 threatened or near threatened species relying on farmland in the developing world, but further research is likely to find many more.

Where local communities are threatened by industrial agriculture, which often results in people being thrown off their traditional lands, conservation may be able to provide a win-win solution, helping to safeguard farming livelihoods for local people and for wildlife. In other cases, local communities could receive economic or development benefits in return for continuing valuable farming practices that benefit wildlife. Conservation must not prevent development so any lost livelihood opportunities must be adequately compensated for.

"We have seen some of the poorest villagers denied access to their traditional grassland grazing and fishing lands, once these have been allocated to large businesses for intensive rice production," said co-author Dr Paul Dolman.

"Although this helps produce food for export and helps the national economy, local people can suffer along with threatened birds which once nested in these grasslands. By identifying this link between people and threatened wildlife, we hope to help both."

Explore further: Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

More information: 'Agriculture – a key element for conservation in the developing world' by Hugh Wright (UEA), Iain Lake (UEA) and Paul Dolman (UEA) is published online by Conservation Letters on Monday December 5 2011.

Provided by University of East Anglia

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Humans lend a hand to critically endangered waterbird

Jul 27, 2009

Human impact on one of the world's most threatened bird species can be beneficial rather than destructive - and could even save it from extinction - according to counterintuitive new findings by the University ...

Asian waterbirds stage remarkable comeback

Apr 03, 2008

According to a report released today by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), several species of rare waterbirds from Cambodia’s famed Tonle Sap region have staged remarkable comebacks, thanks to a project ...

Farming and the fate of wild nature

Jul 19, 2011

Farming is the greatest extinction threat to birds, mammals, plants and insects, and widespread land clearing, irrigation and chemical treatments have profoundly affected wild species and habitats the world ...

Recommended for you

Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

7 hours ago

Bent and tossed by the wind, a field of soybean plants presents a challenge for an Asian lady beetle on the hunt for aphids. But what if the air—and the soybeans—were still?

Asian stars enlisted to fight African rhino poaching

17 hours ago

Increasingly desperate South African conversationists are turning to a multi-national team of "rhino ambassadors" to try to end the scourge of poaching—and Vietnamese pop diva Hong Nhung has been recruited ...

Tropical fish a threat to Mediterranean Sea ecosystems

Sep 18, 2014

The tropical rabbitfish which have devastated algal forests in the eastern Mediterranean Sea pose a major threat to the entire Mediterranean basin if their distribution continues to expand as the climate ...

User comments : 0