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Policies for conservation in a changing climate

Conservation strategies in human-modified landscapes can broadly be classified into two broad categories. First, one category explicitly or mainly targets biodiversity, such as individual species of conservation concern or indicator species signalling high overall biodiversity in target habitats. Amongst such strategies are semi-natural pastures and meadows, which often provide the most diverse animal and plant assemblages in agricultural landscapes. The second category of conservation strategies consist of measures not explicitly targeting biodiversity but addressing the reduction of negative environmental impacts of farming more generally. This can be exemplified with the introduction of organic farming. Beneficial effects of organic farming on biodiversity have been attributed to the prohibition on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, higher crop diversity and more nature-friendly management of non-crop habitats. Nevertheless, it is also argued that such policies are not likely to benefit species of conservation concern.

However, the majority of research has hitherto not considered possible synergies between the two policy options. Our research focuses on whether policies targeting biodiversity also can benefit ecosystem service provisioning in production landscapes on the one hand, and whether policy options targeting ecosystem services more broadly also can benefit biodiversity at the other hand. Here we are particularly interested in whether semi-natural pastures can benefit the surrounding landscapes by providing agricultural habitats with ecosystem service providers, such as pollinating insects and biological pest control agents. Our research shows that this is the case, and currently we are working on whether this also translate into higher ecosystem service provisioning in terms of yields.

Policy strategies targeting ecosystem services can also benefit species of conservation concern, but this question is still understudied. Our research within STEP have shown that maintaining pollinator-friendly landscapes surrounding semi-natural pastures can benefit insect-pollinated plants in grasslands, because pollinating insects are dependent on resource availability at larger spatial scales than individual pastures. On-going research addresses whether such policy interventions also might improve the dispersal possibilities between grassland patches and therefore benefit species under pressure from on-going climate change.

Contact: Johan Ekroos