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Conservation of biodiversity within Canadian agricultural landscapes: Integrating habitat for wildlife

Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics

Abstract

Industrialized agriculture currently substitutes many of the ecological functions of soil micro-organisms, macroinvertebrates, wild plants, and vertebrate animals with high cost inputs of pesticides and fertilizers. Enhanced biological diversity potentially offers agricultural producers a means of reducing the cost of their production. Conservation of biodiversity in agricultural landscapes may be greatly enhanced by the adoption of certain crop management practices, such as reduced pesticide usage or measures to prevent soil erosion. Still, the vast monocultures comprising the crop area in many Canadian agricultural landscapes are often of limited conservation value, thus the inclusion of appropriate wildlife habitat in and around arable lands is a fundamental prerequisite for the integration of wild species within agricultural landscapes. This review of current literature considers the potential for non-crop areas within agricultural landscapes to be reservoirs of agronomically beneficial organisms including plants, invertebrates, and vertebrate species. Non-crop habitats adjacent to crop land have been identified as significant for the maintenance of plant species diversify, for the conservation of beneficial pollinating and predatory insects, and as essential habitat for birds. A key component for enhancement of biodiversity is the reintroduction of landscape heterogeneity by (1) protection and enhancement of key non-crop areas, (2) smaller fields and farms, and (3) a greater mixture of crops, through rotation, intercropping and regional diversification. The benefits of increased biodiversity within arable lands are reviewed for various species groups. In the Canadian. context, any serious attempt to derive significant agronomic benefit from increased biodiversity will require considerable changes in the agricultural programs and policies which shape mainstream industrialized agriculture. The problems of crop depredation by vertebrate species, weed and insect competition, which still represent significant impediments to the creation and proper management of wildlife habitat, are also discussed.

Author(s): Mineau, P; McLaughlin, A

Journal: Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics

Year: 1996

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