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Reframing the land-sparing/land-sharing debate for biodiversity conservation

Abstract

© 2015 New York Academy of Sciences. Conservation biologists are devoting an increasing amount of energy to debating whether land sparing (high-yielding agriculture on a small land footprint) or land sharing (low-yielding, wildlife-friendly agriculture on a larger land footprint) will promote better outcomes for local and global biodiversity. In turn, concerns are mounting about how to feed the world, given increasing demands for food. In this review, I evaluate the land-sparing/land-sharing framework-does the framework stimulate research and policy that can reconcile agricultural land use with biodiversity conservation, or is a revised framing needed? I review (1) the ecological evidence in favor of sparing versus sharing; (2) the evidence from land-use change studies that assesses whether a relationship exists between agricultural intensification and land sparing; and (3) how that relationship may be affected by socioeconomic and political factors. To address the trade-off between biodiversity conservation and food production, I then ask which forms of agricultural intensification can best feed the world now and in the future. On the basis of my review, I suggest that the dichotomy of the land-sparing/land-sharing framework limits the realm of future possibilities to two, largely undesirable, options for conservation. Both large, protected regions and favorable surrounding matrices are needed to promote biodiversity conservation; they work synergistically and are not mutually exclusive. A "both-and" framing of large protected areas surrounded by a wildlife-friendly matrix suggests different research priorities from the "either-or" framing of sparing versus sharing. Furthermore, wildlife-friendly farming methods such as agroecology may be best adapted to provide food for the world's hungry people.

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