Landscape Diversity and Ecosystem Services in Agricultural Ecosystems: Implications for Sustainable Growth and Rural Poverty in China

Lead Research Organisation: Int Food Policy Research Inst
Department Name: Env and Production Technology Division

Abstract

Agriculture refers to a category of ecosystems that humans purposefully manage to obtain provisioning ecosystem services (ES), such as food, fiber, and biofuel. In the process, they depend upon a wide variety of supporting and regulating services that determine the underlying biophysical capacity of agricultural ecosystems. This research focuses on a critical set of such supporting and regulating ES, including pest and disease regulation and pollination that are important for maintaining the productivity and sustainability of agricultural ecosystems. These ES are often provided by insects that move between different habitats in the landscape. The flows of these ES rely on how agricultural ecosystems are managed at the site scale and on the structure, composition, and functioning of the surrounding landscape. These ES are particularly important for the rural poor whose livelihoods typically rely more on agriculture. Agricultural land use interacts in important ways with landscape structure. Managing land use in agricultural landscapes to provide sufficient ES offers a vital approach to sustainable agricultural growth and has the potential to point to new pathways out of rural poverty. While ES have always been critical to the success of agriculture, there has recently been a surge in studies on the relationship between ES and diversity at landscape level, prompted by the ecological impoverishment of modern high intensity agricultural landscapes. Results of these studies highlight the need to shift the scale of ES investigations and management strategies from the field to the agricultural landscape. As new evidence begins to emerge, it needs to be put into socio-economic and development perspectives in terms of links of ES to the livelihoods of the poor. Despite a population exceeding 1.3 billion, China has been able to produce nearly all its food demand from a very limited land endowment. This accomplishment has been achieved primarily by increasing the level of modern inputs and the intensity of the farming systems. However, after a period of explosion in yield levels from the 1960s to early 1990s, stagnant yield potential has been the recent trend characterizing Chinese agriculture since the late 1990s. Yields have been stagnant for the past 10 years in the rice producing regions of China, where farmers were early adopters of green-revolution technologies. Evidence shows that environmental stress and ecosystem degradation is among the main drivers of the slowdown in yield growth in China. With rising population and income, agricultural productivity will have to continue growing. But continued growth based on intensification and unsustainable land use practices would be difficult. Tremendous research effort is needed to understand how practices can be modified to manage the critical ES provided to agriculture and to minimize the negative externalities of agriculture. Investments also may be required in key areas of the rural sector to protect the resource base, such as the natural ecosystems that provide vital habitats and alternative food sources for beneficial insects within the agricultural landscapes. The overall goal of this proposed study is to improve our understanding of the complex effects of landscape diversity as driven by land use choices, on the provision of key ES that support agriculture, and how those effects are channeled to human welfare and poverty reduction outcomes, and to provide the analytical tools to assist making strategic, evidence-based decisions on managing land use in agricultural landscapes that explicitly account for the effects of ES provision on poverty reduction. The landscape-scale land use perspective to ES management is of particular importance to China, where most of the poverty is concentrated in its rural population and the agricultural ecosystems face the challenge of improving productivity and sustainability while decreasing their environmental impact and ecosystem degradation.
 
Description 1. Findings from the study on "Effects of land use and insecticides on natural enemies of aphids in cotton: first evidence from smallholder agriculture in the North China Plain"



This paper provides to our knowledge the first empirical evidence on effects of land use diversity, measured with remote sensing and ground truthing, on abundance of natural enemies in smallholder field crops in a developing country context. Results indicate that high land use diversity per se as measured by Shannon or Simpson index is not associated with high density of natural enemies in cotton. Rather, the effects of land use on natural enemies are explained by the effect of different crop and non-crop habitats that may support the insect species that provide biological control services in these landscapes. In this study, a high land use proportion under maize was associated with greater densities of ladybeetles in cotton. This result is explained by the low use of pesticides in maize on the one hand, and the previous crop of maize (within the same season), wheat, which supports high densities of natural enemies that may spill over to other crops, both in space and time. These landscape effects contrast with those reported previously in the USA, where maize area is negatively associated with natural enemy density and diversity in soybeans, and negatively associated with soybean aphid biological control. Thus, we show that landscape effects exhibit a degree of idiosyncrasy that cannot be captured by simple indices like Shannon and Simpson index. Furthermore, we document the intensive use of insecticides by farmers and its detrimental consequences for natural enemies in cotton. High insecticide use by farmers is based on decision making that does not account for biological control services provided by natural enemies. The identified lack of farmer awareness on the value of natural enemies for crop health calls for a better information transfer to farmers, in support of the health of crops, the environment, and the farmers.
Exploitation Route Policy briefs prepared for government agencies could potentially affect policy making.

Knowledge generated by this study can be used to inform extension agents, who can pass it on to farmers to improve sustainable management of pest and reduce chemical insecticide use. At present, enhancing biological control services by promoting land use diversity is unlikely to be cost-effective for smallholder producers given the high return rate for insecticide use. On the other hand, coordinated habitat management at the landscape scale can potentially be economically viable. Policies that encourage farmers to account for the human health and environmental costs of insecticides would help incentivize the adoption of habitat management.
Sectors Environment

 
Description Agricultural Entomology and Pest Control
Amount ¥105,967 (CNY)
Organisation National Science Foundation China 
Sector Public
Country China
Start 01/2013 
End 01/2015
 
Description Agricultural Entomology and Pest Control
Amount £105,967 (GBP)
Organisation National Science Foundation China 
Sector Public
Country China
Start 01/2013 
End 03/2015
 
Description Living landscapes: recognizing and strengthening the contribution of ecosystem services
Amount £315,551 (GBP)
Funding ID 833.13.004 
Organisation Joint Scientific Thematic Research Programme (JSTP) 
Sector Academic/University
Country Netherlands
Start 10/2013 
End 09/2016
 
Description Living landscapes: recognizing and strengthening the contribution of ecosystem services
Amount ¥315,551 (CNY)
Funding ID 833.13.004 
Organisation Joint Scientific Thematic Research Programme (JSTP) 
Sector Academic/University
Country Netherlands
Start 01/2013 
End 01/2016
 
Description Mobile agent-based ecosystem services management in smallholder landscapes - China and Southeast Asia
Amount £358,949 (GBP)
Organisation CGIAR 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country France
Start 05/2013 
End 12/2016
 
Description Mobile agent-based ecosystem services management in smallholder landscapes - China and Southeast Asia
Amount £358,949 (GBP)
Organisation CGIAR 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country France
Start 04/2013 
End 03/2016
 
Description Understanding the provision and multidimensional benefit of ecosystem services and implications for natural resource management in Nigeria
Amount $458,963 (USD)
Funding ID 50 
Organisation CGIAR 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country France
Start 07/2012 
End 12/2015
 
Description Understanding the provision and multidimensional benefit of ecosystem services and implications for natural resource management in Nigeria
Amount £458,963 (GBP)
Funding ID 50 
Organisation CGIAR 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country France
Start 07/2012 
End 06/2015
 
Title Biological data on pest control ecosystem services 
Description Data on pest and natural enemy densities collected from biological field experiments (including cage studies) in 20 sites in Hebei, China, in the summer of 2011. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact paper under development 
 
Title County level pest pressure and insecticide use data 
Description Long term panel data on pest infestation level and insecticide use for 51 counties, 1991-2010 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact paper under development 
 
Title Household survey data 
Description over 300 households from 20 villages in Hebei province, China, collected in the summer of 2011. The data cover household characteristics, production, and wellfare informaiton, as well as insect population data (cotton pests and main natural enemies) in the cotton field of the respondent farmers. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact publication 
 
Title Landscape scale detailed land use data 
Description Detailed land use data (crop-specific) were collected during summer 2011 for 20 villages in Hebei province, China. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact publication 
 
Description New collaboration formed for the Nigeria ecosystem services project 
Organisation Nasarawa State University, Keffi
Country Nigeria 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Further funding has been obtained from the Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) research program of the CGIAR to conduct a study on "Understanding the provision and multidimensional benefit of ecosystem services and implications for natural resource management in Nigeria". A new collaboration was formed for this effort, led by Wei Zhang, co-Investigator and project manager of the ESPA project.
Start Year 2012
 
Description New collaboration formed for the Nigeria ecosystem services project 
Organisation Nasarawa State University, Keffi
Country Nigeria 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Further funding has been obtained from the Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) research program of the CGIAR to conduct a study on "Understanding the provision and multidimensional benefit of ecosystem services and implications for natural resource management in Nigeria". A new collaboration was formed for this effort, led by Wei Zhang, co-Investigator and project manager of the ESPA project.
Start Year 2012
 
Description New collaboration formed for the Nigeria ecosystem services project 
Organisation University of Ibadan
Country Nigeria 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Further funding has been obtained from the Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) research program of the CGIAR to conduct a study on "Understanding the provision and multidimensional benefit of ecosystem services and implications for natural resource management in Nigeria". A new collaboration was formed for this effort, led by Wei Zhang, co-Investigator and project manager of the ESPA project.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Seminar presentation Biodiversity International 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Zhang, W., Y. Lu, F. Wu, J. Huang, K. Zhou, W. van der Werf, X. Deng, K. Wu, and M. Rosegrant. 2012. "The effects of land use diversity on pest pressure and insecticide use in cotton: A county level analysis for China". Biodiversity International, Rome, Italy. April 13, 2012

Wei Zhang was invited to give a seminar presentation at Biodiversity International on: The effects of land use diversity on pest pressure and insecticide use in cotton: A county level analysis for China
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Seminar presentation FAO 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Participants in your research or patient groups
Results and Impact Zhang, W., Y. Lu, F. Wu, J. Huang, K. Zhou, W. van der Werf, X. Deng, K. Wu, and M. Rosegrant. 2012. "The effects of land use diversity on pest pressure and insecticide use in cotton: A county level analysis for China". Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy. April 12, 2012

Wei Zhang was invited to give a seminar presentation entitled: "The effects of land use diversity on pest pressure and insecticide use in cotton: A county level analysis for China"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Seminar presentation Nigeria Strategy Support Program 2012 Wei Zhang 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Zhang, W., Y. Lu, F. Wu, J. Huang, K. Zhou, W. van der Werf, X. Deng, K. Wu, and M. Rosegrant. 2012. "The effects of land use diversity on pest pressure and insecticide use in cotton: A county level analysis for China". Nigeria Strategy Support Program (NSSP) Policy Seminar, Abuja, Nigeria. September 13, 2012
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Seminar presentation Nigeria Strategy Support Program 2012 Wopke van der Werf 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Wopke van der Werf gave presentation on "Landscape change effects on the ecosystem service of biological pest control". Nigeria Strategy Support Program (NSSP) Policy Seminar, Abuja, Nigeria. September 13, 2012
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Seminar presentation Wageningen University 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Zhang, W., Y. Lu, F. Wu, J. Huang, K. Zhou, W. van der Werf, X. Deng, K. Wu, and M. Rosegrant. 2012. "The effects of land use diversity on pest pressure and insecticide use in cotton: A county level analysis for China". Crop Systems Analysis seminar. Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands. October 8, 2012.

Wei Zhang gave a presentation on "The Effects of Land Use Diversity on Pest Pressure and Insecticide Use in Cotton: A County Level Analysis for China" at the Crop Systems Analysis seminar, Wageningen University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012