Biodiversity, Food and Farming for a Healthy Planet

Can farming affect biodiversity?

Changing landscapes

Farming usually changes the landscape, the water, the air and biodiversity. For example, construction workers build roads so that trucks can pick up farm produce and take it to markets. When farmers cut trees to create space for growing crops or raising livestock, they also reduce natural water filtration (cleaning) and available habitats for many species. Tractors and other farm machinery emit air pollutants.

In some areas, farming brings enormous changes to the landscape. In parts of the Amazon, large tracts of forests have been cut down and replaced by monoculture (one crop) farming or pastures for cattle grazing. These changes reduce the number and variety of habitats available for species. Without suitable habitats, hundreds of species, including trees, vines, plants, birds, snakes, frogs and mammals, can no longer live in the area. The end result is a loss of biodiversity.

In other areas, the land does not change much. Some farmers use the landscape as it is. For example, grasslands are natural pastures for many farm animals or wild herbivores. Many farmers do not fence in these natural pastures so that wild herbivores can use them too. Leaving the pastures open can be risky – carnivores may prey on farm animals.

Other farmers design their farms to minimize changes to the natural landscape. They might even try to enhance biodiversity on and around the farm. They can promote biodiversity by using sustainable farming methods such as including both plants and trees in one field, using little or no pesticides and planting a variety of crops.