Future Farming and its Impact on Biodiversity

Ths BES’s Science Policy Team yesterday attended a fascinating conference at New Hall College, Cambridge, organised by the Cambridge Conservation Forum. “Future Farming in the UK: Global Implications for Society and Biodiversity” was an opportunity to discuss and debate the impacts which farming methods and models of the future could have on biodiversity, and how such models could be affected by climate change.

Presentations ranged from a discussion of the potential for miscanthus and short-rotation-coppice willow to meet our future bioenergy needs, to the future of the Common Agricultural Policy and the future impacts of UK agriculture to peoples internationally. We heard too from a farmer, Nicholas Watts of Vine House Farm, who discussed his shift to organic farming and measures on the farm to encourage biodiversity. A presentation from the BTO outlined the measures which farmers could adopt to encourage late-breeding in the turtle dove (leaving fields as whole or part stubble following the harvest) and skylarks (in-field undrilled patches to create suitable nest sites).

During the day, participants were given the opportunity to suggest possible solutions to problems of food security, climate change and consequent pressures on biodiversity. Delegates voted for the ‘top’ solution as; recognising that population growth is part of the problem. Increased investment in education for girls, along with greater access to birth control for women, must be part of the solution.

Professor Bill Sutherland (University of Cambridge), a co-organiser of the conference, concluded the meeting, stressing the importance of horizon-scanning to ensure that the science community is prepared, with the results of relevant scientific research, when challenges emerge. There are serious challenges ahead, and the science community has to think about how it will address these; conservationists should be part of the dialogue and part of the solution.

Access the ‘top solutions’ to the challenges, as voted for by delegates, plus presentations from the day, at the website of the Cambridge Conservation Forum.

Were you there? Share your thoughts on the conference with us by leaving a comment on the Blog