From the insects, earthworms and soil micro-organisms who perform such critical ecosystem services as the pollination of crops and breaking down of organic matter in the soil, to the farmland birds facilitating seed dispersal and pollination, all farmland biodiversity is critical to maintain healthy ecosystems. These allow agriculture to be productive and deliver affordable food to reach our dinner tables. Moreover, a greater the biodiversity contributes to the resilience of an agro-ecosystem.
However, the decline of farmland biodiversity over the last decades has been dramatic and the latest European data shows that 76% of species and 70% of habitats related to agriculture currently have an unfavourable conservation status. At the same time, the task of protecting and maintaining farmland biodiversity is not an easy one given the low and decreasing availibity of land for food, fibre and now fuel production as well as urbanisation and development in a growing world.
Balancing the competing demands on land use between ecological goals, production needs and the demands of financial sustainability is a key challenge for European agriculture. Currently European agriculture is highly productive but has a large ecological footprint and is not always financially viable. Supporting the development of multifunctional agricultural practices and systems which strike a better balance between these three objectives is a key mission of the RISE Foundation as part of our wider goal to support a vibrant rural economy.
RISE has looked into innovative financing schemes to support the provision of public goods by farmers and land managers, including farmland biodiversity protection through various studies and policy-related conferences. Please see the section "public goods" for more information on our work in this area. In 2012, we hosted the Annual Meeting of the International Hamster Workgroup in order to support conservation efforts for this emblematic and highly endangered farmland species. Please click here for more information about the Meeting and the hamster.