Ecosystem services framework for revealing trade-offs in crop production

A collaborative project between the University of Sheffield and Dow AgroSciences to develop a six-step ecosystem services framework that can be used to reveal multi-scale trade-offs between food production, biodiversity and other ecosystem services in arable systems. The framework was used to predict how changes in EU legislation that affect pesticide use and risk assessment might influence wheat production in the UK.

ESRAframework copy

The framework – we identified a set of scenarios that reflect realistic agronomic decisions that UK farmers might make when growing winter wheat and the most commonly planted break crops, given the recent changes in pesticide legislation (steps 1&2). This resulted in the assessment of the impacts on biodiversity and 9 key arable ecosystem services of 30 active substances used to produce these crops (steps 3&4). This required establishing the ecotoxicological profile and related level of hazard, need for risk mitigation and mitigation measures necessary (buffer strips) for the use of each active substance in field, and finally which taxonomic groups play a role in the provision of the ecosystem services of interest. The consequences of these impacts was predicted for each scenario at the farm, through to global scales, with the suggestions of possible solutions to mitigate impacts and maximise multifunctionality (steps 5&6).

Outcomes – the framework can reveal impacts and outcomes in advance of decision-making for balancing food production, biodiversity and ecosystem services. This approach can be used in other ecosystems and policy-contexts.

Holt et al. 2016 STOTEN front cover copy2 copy


Read the paper: Food production, ecosystem services and biodiversity