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Farmers' Interest in Nature and Its Relation to Biodiversity in Arable Fields

Ahnström, J., Bengtsson, J., Berg, Å., Hallgren, L., Boonstra, W. J., Björklund, J.
International journal of ecology 2013 v.2013 no.617352 pp. 9
Bombus, Carabidae, agri-environmental policy, agricultural land, birds, farmers, farms, inventories, landscapes, motivation, plant density, social factors, solitary bees, species diversity, weeds, winter wheat, Sweden
Biodiversity declines in farmland have been attributed to intensification of farming at the field level and loss of heterogeneity at the landscape level. However, farmers are not solely optimizing production; their actions are also influenced by social factors, tradition and interest in nature, which indirectly influence biodiversity but rarely are incorporated in studies of farmland biodiversity. We used social science methods to quantify farmers' interest in nature on 16 farms with winter wheat fields in central Sweden, and combined this with biodiversity inventories of five organism groups (weeds, carabid beetles, bumblebees, solitary bees, and birds) and estimates of landscape composition and management intensity at the field level. Agricultural intensity, measured as crop density, and farmers' interest in nature explained variation in biodiversity, measured as the proportion of the regional species richness found on single fields. Interest in nature seemed to incorporate many actions taken by farmers and appeared to be influenced by both physical factors, for example, the surrounding landscape, and social factors, for example, social motivations. This study indicates that conservation of biodiversity in farmland, and design of new agri-environmental subsidy systems, would profit from taking farmers' interest in nature and its relation to agricultural practices into account.