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Agriculture and biodiversity: a better balance benefits both

1 Louis Bolk Institute, Hoofdstraat24, 3972 LA Driebergen, The Netherlands
2 VU Amsterdam, Department of Earth sciences, De Boelenlaan 1085, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
3 WWF Netherlands, Zeist, The Netherlands
4 Dutch Montagu’s Harrier Foundation, Scheemda, The Netherlands

Sustainable agriculture is an important component of many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals agreed upon by the UN in 2015 (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs). However, the trend in agriculture is moving in the opposite, non-sustainable direction. Agriculture is one of the major drivers of biodiversity loss. Next to biodiversity loss due to habitat destruction by conversion of natural lands into agriculture, intensification of agriculture has led to a strong decline of specific farmland biodiversity. Furthermore, many agricultural landscapes face pollution by pesticides and fertilizers, and encounter depleted soils and erosion due to unsustainable farming practices. This is threatening not only biodiversity but also complete ecosystems and the ecosystem services on which agriculture itself depends. Moreover, the pressure of feeding an increasing number of people in combination with a change in diets towards more animal protein puts a lot of additional pressure on the current available agricultural lands and nature areas.
We propose a holistic approach that contributes to the development and implementation of sustainable agricultural practices that both make use and support biodiversity and ecosystem services both in agricultural and in semi-natural areas. An agricultural system based on the full potential of (functional agro) biodiversity provides opportunities to create a resilient system in which both food production and nature can thrive.
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