To integrate or to segregate food crop and energy crop cultivation at the landscape scale? Perspectives on biodiversity conservation in agriculture in Europe
Biodiversity is severely declining in intensively managed agriculture worldwide. In response, land-management strategies for biodiversity conservation on farmland are in debate, namely ecological intensification and land sparing vs. land sharing. In parallel, there is a recent food vs. energy debate stimulated by an increasing competition for land resources. Despite clear overlaps between these two debates, they were rarely connected in previous research. This paper aims to stimulate a discussion by providing a contextual link between biodiversity conservation strategies and options for future energy crop deployment. Therefore, nine conceptual land-use scenarios are developed, and then, the potential biodiversity implications are discussed based on the findings from past and ongoing research. These scenarios include the integration and segregation of both food and energy crops on lands with a range of productivity and suitability for agricultural production. We assume that the clear segregation between food crops on productive land and energy crops on marginal land is less likely to be a solution of mitigating the problems related to the biodiversity decline, especially in the European agricultural landscape context. In contrast, the integration of food and energy crop production systems at the farm to landscape scale has greater potential for ecological intensification, although conflicts with traditional nature conservation targets may arise. We conclude that broadening the perspectives of biodiversity conservation in agriculture is crucial, and the inclusion of energy crop production into the recent debates on biodiversity conservation strategies is helpful.