Biodiversity, Food and Farming for a Healthy Planet

Can farming affect biodiversity?

The way that farmers grow crops and raise animals can be either good or bad for biodiversity. On one hand, farmers can support biodiversity through careful farming methods. On the other hand, if farmers are not careful, the environment and organisms on and near the farm can be harmed.
Trees can act as natural water filters. Their roots absorb rainwater, and minimize the amount of runoff entering rivers and lakes. Runoff often carries pesticides from farmers’ fields that can damage aquatic ecosystems.

A handful of farm dirt is rich in biodiversity. Soil biodiversity includes animals, bacteria, fungi and even the roots of plants growing above. Soils form complex ecosystems that make farming possible. There are millions of organisms that live in soil — microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, and macroorganisms, such as worms, mites, ants and spiders. These organisms can help farmers to reduce the negative effects of farming. When they eat and dig underground, earthworms, termites and other burrowing organisms mix the upper layers, redistribute nutrients and increase the amount of water absorbed by the soil. Some macroorganisms are critical to local farming techniques. Farmers in Burkina Faso and in other areas of West Africa encourage termites to live and burrow in their farm plots because they improve the soil.