NSP - Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

FAO emphasizes that both the conservation of biological diversity for food and agriculture and its sustainable use is necessary for providing food, improving people’s economic, social and environmental conditions and meeting the needs of future generations, in particular the rural poor. In this context, AGP assists member countries in developing capacities to manage biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides to increase options for optimizing agricultural production.  [more...]

Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture

Biodiversity - the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels - is necessary to sustain key functions of the ecosystem, its structure and processes. Biodiversity for food and agriculture can be managed to maintain or enhance ecosystem functions to provide options for the optimization of agricultural production, and contribute to the resilience of ecosystems for risk mitigation. Indeed, biodiversity enhances ecosystem services because those components that appear redundant at one point in time become important when changes occur.

Why is biological diversity important to agriculture? Some examples:

Crop genetic diversity has a critical role to play in increasing and sustaining production levels and nutritional diversity throughout the full range of different agroecological conditions. Diverse organisms contributing to soil biodiversity perform a number of vital functions that regulate the soil ecosystem, including: decomposition of litter and cycling of nutrients; converting atmospheric nitrogen to an organic form, and reconverting this to gaseous nitrogen; and altering soil structure. [ more... ]

Ecosystem Services and Their Importance For Agriculture

Ecosystem services are defined as “the benefits provided by ecosystems to humans”. Many key ecosystem services provided by biodiversity, such as nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, pest regulation and pollination, sustain agricultural productivity. Promoting the healthy functioning of ecosystems ensures the resilience of agriculture as it intensifies to meet growing demands for food production. Climate change and other stresses have the potential to make major impacts on key functions, such as pollination and pest regulation services. Learning to strengthen the ecosystem linkages that promote resilience and to mitigate the forces that impede the ability of agro-ecosystems to deliver goods and services remains an important challenge.

Ecosystem services can be:

  • Supporting (e.g. soil formation, nutrient cycling, primary production)
  • Provisioning (e.g. food, fresh water, fuelwood, fiber, biochemicals, genetic resources)
  • Regulating (e.g. climate regulation, disease regulation, water regulation, water purification, pollination)
  • Cultural (e.g. spiritual and religious, recreation and ecotourism, aesthetic, inspirational, educational, sense of place, cultural heritage).

    Adapted from: Ecosystems and human well-being: a framework for assessment. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 2003. World Resources Institute.

Managing Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functions for Sustainable Agricultural Production

Biodiversity is an important regulator of agro-ecosystem functions, not only in the strictly biological sense of impact on production, but also in satisfying a variety of needs of the farmer and society at large. Agroecosystem managers, including farmers, can build upon, enhance and manage the essential ecosystem services provided by biodiversity in order to work towards sustainable agricultural production. This can be achieved though good farming practices which follow ecosystem-based approaches designed to improve sustainability of production systems. They aim at meeting consumer needs for products that are of high quality, safe and produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

Core Themes