Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

Biodiversity in EU agricultural landscapes goes from science to strategy

Biodiversity is a vital factor in agricultural landscapes, with an importance that cuts across the environment, the climate, human livelihoods and nutrition. Yet governments and institutions still struggle to recognize this importance in concrete ways, with concrete strategies. In 2020, the European Union (EU) took a historic step with two of its Green Deal strategies. The EU Farm to Fork Strategy and Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 propose that 10% of EU agricultural landscapes should be managed for the conservation of natural and semi-natural habitats.

Scientists from the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) contributed significantly to this proposal. They have conducted years of background research on the biodiversity needed for sustainable functioning of agricultural landscapes, including the semi-natural habitats that sit, often overlooked, on the margins of food production.

In 2019, WLE contributed to the influential EAT-Lancet Commission report that suggested a habitat conservation target of 10% of agricultural land as a "planetary boundary" condition for food production. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) further described this target in its Global Assessment, again with WLE's core support on the question of ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes.

In the pages of Nature, WLE researchers joined a call to integrate agricultural landscapes into the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and another to "bend the biodiversity curve" towards no net loss by 2030 with integrated actions in agricultural production, consumption and conservation. Three CGIAR scientists also joined an Earth Commission workshop synthesizing evidence for the post-2020 global framework on biodiversity, again putting forward specific targets in agriculture for the CBD.

Subsequently, WLE's Fabrice DeClerk was invited to multiple EU workshops including the 5th EU Standing Committee on Agricultural Research, contributing to its Foresight Report on Resilience and Transformation. In another workshop of several EU agencies, a sentiment arose that internal EU policy should be reflected in international commitments. This is now apparent in the 10% conservation target proposed in the Green Deal strategies.

While it is impossible to say what share of this is due to WLE researchers' inputs, WLE has contributed significantly to the research and dialogue on the 10% target. This will continue through strong engagement with the CBD, IPBES and the COP26 Climate Summit. WLE anticipates that CBD member states will adopt the revised 2030 biodiversity targets, including those for agriculture.