Nav: Home

Biodiversity yields financial returns

February 07, 2020

Many farmers associate grassland biodiversity with lower yields and financial losses. "Biodiversity is often considered unprofitable, but we show that it can, in fact, pay off," says Nina Buchmann, Professor of Grassland Sciences at ETH Zurich. In an interdisciplinary study at the interface of agricultural sciences, ecology and economics, Buchmann and her colleagues were able to quantify the economic added value of biodiversity based on a grassland experiment that examined different intensities of cultivation. Their paper has just been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Creating higher revenues

"Our work shows that biodiversity is an economically relevant factor of production," says Robert Finger, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Policy at ETH Zurich. If 16 different plant species grow in a field instead of just one, the quality of the forage remains more or less the same, but the yield is higher - which directly correlates to the income that can be made from milk sales. "The resultant increase in revenues in our study is comparable to the difference in yield between extensively and intensively farmed land," says Sergei Schaub, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in Finger's and Buchmann's groups.

Switzerland has so-called ecological compensation areas, i.e., grasslands for which farmers pay particular attention to promoting biodiversity. However, these areas often have poor soils and the yields they produce cannot be compared with those of high-quality grassland. Fortunately, the researchers were able to use data from the long-term Jena Experiment, which - among other questions - compared different farming practices at the same site.

"Our results show that biodiversity has an economically positive effect on all areas, regardless of whether farmers mow and fertilise them four times a year or just once," Schaub says. The more intensely the land is farmed, however, the more difficult it becomes to maintain a high level of biodiversity, because only a few plant species can withstand fertilisation and frequent mowing, he notes. Finger adds that Swiss farmers already take more advantage of this economic effect than their counterparts in other countries. Generally speaking, biodiversity on the areas used for forage production in Switzerland is already relatively rich in biodiversity because the seed mixtures are adapted to local conditions, he explains.

Biodiversity as risk insurance

The researchers didn't expect their results to be so conclusive. And there's another economic aspect that they didn't even factor in: "Biodiversity is also a kind of risk insurance," Buchmann says. Diverse grasslands are better off to cope with extreme events such as droughts or floods, he explains, because different plant species react differently to such environmental influences, which partially compensates for any losses arising. "This means yields become more stable over time," Buchmann says, as the research team demonstrated in other recent studies.

The researchers believe their results are a clear indication that it's worthwhile for farmers to increase the diversity of plants growing on their land. "Preserving or restoring diverse grasslands can be a win-win situation," the researchers note at the end of their paper. Not only because this increases farmers' yields and operating revenues, but also because it improves and promotes important ecosystem services such as pollination or water quality.
-end-
Reference

Schaub S, Finger R, Leiber F, Probst S, Kreuzer M, Weigelt A, Buchmann N and Scherer-Lorenzen M. Plant diversity effects on forage quality, yield and revenues of semi-natural grasslands. Nat. Comm. (2020). doi 10.1038/s41467-?020-14541-4

ETH Zurich

Related Biodiversity Articles:

About the distribution of biodiversity on our planet
Large open-water fish predators such as tunas or sharks hunt for prey more intensively in the temperate zone than near the equator.
Bargain-hunting for biodiversity
The best bargains for conserving some of the world's most vulnerable salamanders and other vertebrate species can be found in Central Texas and the Appalachians, according to new conservation tools developed at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Researchers solve old biodiversity mystery
The underlying cause for why some regions are home to an extremely large number of animal species may be found in the evolutionary adaptations of species, and how they limit their dispersion to specific natural habitats.
Biodiversity offsetting is contentious -- here's an alternative
A new approach to compensate for the impact of development may be an effective alternative to biodiversity offsetting -- and help nations achieve international biodiversity targets.
Biodiversity yields financial returns
Farmers could increase their revenues by increasing biodiversity on their land.
Biodiversity and wind energy
The location and operation of wind energy plants are often in direct conflict with the legal protection of endangered species.
Mapping global biodiversity change
A new study, published in Science, which focuses on mapping biodiversity change in marine and land ecosystems shows that loss of biodiversity is most prevalent in the tropic, with changes in marine ecosystems outpacing those on land.
What if we paid countries to protect biodiversity?
Researchers from Sweden, Germany, Brazil and the USA have developed a financial mechanism to support the protection of the world's natural heritage.
Grassland biodiversity is blowing in the wind
Temperate grasslands are the most endangered but least protected ecosystems on Earth.
The loss of biodiversity comes at a price
A University of Cordoba research team ran the numbers on the impact of forest fires on emblematic species using the fires in Spain's Doñana National Park and Segura mountains in 2017 as examples
More Biodiversity News and Biodiversity Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.