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- Sustaining Native Biodiversity in Agricultural Landscapes;
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About Agricultural Biodiversity
Eco-agriculture recognizes agricultural producers and communities as key stewards of ecosystems and biodiversity and enables them to play those roles effectively. Eco-agriculture applies an integrated ecosystem approach to agricultural landscapes to address all three pillars—conserving biodiversity, enhancing agricultural production, and improving livelihoods—drawing on diverse elements of production and conservation management systems. Meeting the goals of eco-agriculture usually requires collaboration or coordination between diverse stakeholders who are collectively responsible for managing key components of a landscape.
Eco-agriculture uses the landscape as a unit of management.
Nature and Farming : Sustaining Native Biodiversity in Agricultural Landscapes
A landscape is a cluster of local ecosystems with a particular configuration of topography , vegetation, land use, and settlement. The goals of eco-agriculture—to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem services, manage agricultural production sustainably, and contribute to improved livelihoods among rural people—cannot be achieved at just a farm or plot level, but are linked at the landscape level.
Therefore, to make an impact, all of the elements of a landscape as a whole must be considered; integrated landscape management  is an approach that seeks to achieve this. Defining a landscape depends on the local context. Landscapes can incorporate many different features, but all of the various features have some influence or effect on each other. Landscapes can vary greatly in size, from the Congo Basin in west-central Africa where landscapes are often huge because there are vast stretches of apparently undifferentiated land, to western Europe where landscapes tend to be much smaller because of the wide diversity of topographies and land use activities occurring close to each other.
Agriculture is the most dominant human influence on earth.
An even greater area is being fallowed as part of an agricultural cycle or is in tree crops, livestock grazing systems, or production forestry. And over half of the most species-rich areas in the world contain large human populations whose livelihoods depend on farming , forestry , herding , or fisheries. Agriculture as it is often practiced today threatens wild plant and animal species and the natural ecosystem services upon which both humans and wildlife depend. Moreover, fertilizers, pesticides, and agricultural waste threaten habitats and protected areas downstream.
Landclearing for agriculture also disrupts sources of food and shelter for wild biodiversity , and unsustainable fishing practices deplete freshwater and coastal fisheries. Additionally, an increase in the planting and marketing of monoculture crops across the globe has decreased diversity in agricultural products, to the extent that many local varieties of fruits, vegetables, and grains have now become extinct.
Given that demands on global agricultural production are increasing, it is imperative that the management of agricultural landscapes be improved to both increase productivity and enhance biodiversity conservation.
Nature and Farming
Wild biodiversity increasingly depends on agricultural producers to find ways to better protect habitats, and agriculture critically needs healthy and diverse ecosystems to sustain productivity. Traditionally there has existed a divide between conservationists, who want to set land aside for the protection of wild biodiversity, and agriculturalists, who want to use land for production. Because more than half of all plant and animal species exist principally outside protected areas —- mostly in agricultural landscapes —- there is a great need to close the gap between conservation efforts and agricultural production.
For example, conservation of wetlands within agricultural landscapes is critical for wild bird populations.
Sustaining Native Biodiversity in Agricultural Landscapes
Such species require initiatives by and with farmers. Ecoagriculture provides a bridge for these two communities to come together.
Farming communities play a vital role as managers of their ecosystems and biodiversity. As Ben Falk points out, they are often viewed as stewards.
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In his understanding, "Stewardship implies dominion, whereas partnership implies co[-]evolution; mutual respect; whole-archy, not hierarchy. A partner is sometimes a guide, always a facilitator, always a co[-]worker. Wild species often also play an important role in providing livestock fodder, fuel, veterinary medicines, soil nutrient supplements and construction materials to farmers, as well constituting an essential element of cultural, religious, and spiritual practices. The dominance of agriculture in global land use requires that eco-agriculture approaches be fostered by rural producers and their communities on a globally significant scale.
To do this, farmers need to be able to conserve biodiversity more consistently in ways that benefit their livelihoods. Experiences from around the world suggest that there are a number of incentives to encourage and enable farmers and their communities to preserve or transition towards eco-agriculture landscapes:. Agricultural landscapes that aim to achieve the objectives of ecoagriculture —- enhanced biodiversity conservation, increased food production, and improved rural livelihoods —- should be managed in ways that protect and expand natural areas and improve wildlife habitats and ecosystem functions, in collaboration with local communities to insure their benefit.