5 years ago

Land-use strategies to balance livestock production, biodiversity conservation and carbon storage in Yucatán, Mexico

Land-use strategies to balance livestock production, biodiversity conservation and carbon storage in Yucatán, Mexico
Ben Phalan, David R Williams, Andrew Balmford, Fredy Alvarado, Rhys E Green, Andrea Manica
Balancing the production of food, particularly meat, with preserving biodiversity and maintaining ecosystem services is a major societal challenge. Research into the contrasting strategies of land sparing and land sharing has suggested that land sparing—combining high-yield agriculture with the protection or restoration of natural habitats on nonfarmed land—will have lower environmental impacts than other strategies. Ecosystems with long histories of habitat disturbance, however, could be resilient to low-yield agriculture and thus fare better under land sharing. Using a wider suite of species (birds, dung beetles and trees) and a wider range of livestock-production systems than previous studies, we investigated the probable impacts of different land-use strategies on biodiversity and aboveground carbon stocks in the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico—a region with a long history of habitat disturbance. By modelling the production of multiple products from interdependent land uses, we found that land sparing would allow larger estimated populations of most species and larger carbon stocks to persist than would land sharing or any intermediate strategy. This result held across all agricultural production targets despite the history of disturbance and despite species richness in low- and medium-yielding agriculture being not much lower than that in natural habitats. This highlights the importance, in evaluating the biodiversity impacts of land use, of measuring population densities of individual species, rather than simple species richness. The benefits of land sparing for both biodiversity and carbon storage suggest that safeguarding natural habitats for biodiversity protection and carbon storage alongside promoting areas of high-yield cattle production would be desirable. However, delivering such landscapes will probably require the explicit linkage of livestock yield increases with habitat protection or restoration, as well as a deeper understanding of the long-term sustainability of yields, and research into how other societal outcomes vary across land-use strategies. The proportion of bird, dung beetle and tree species showing different responses to agriculture. The solid vertical line shows current production levels, the dashed line the projected 2025 production target. Across all taxa and production levels, land sparing is the least harmful approach.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13791

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