Context: The global demand for food is expected to continue increasing for decades, which may drive both agricultural expansion and intensification. The associated environmental impacts are potentially considerable but will depend on how the agricultural sector develops. Currently, there are contrasting regional developments in agriculture; expansion and/or intensification in some regions and abandonment in others, as well as changes in the type of farming. However, the environmental consequences of changes in farm type are not well understood. Objective: We have evaluated the impacts of farm type on food production and three key environmental variables—landscape openness, grassland biodiversity and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—in three marginal agricultural regions in Sweden. Methods: We do this by first dividing the population of farms in each region into types, based on their land-use and livestock holdings using an innovative clustering method. Thereafter we analysed changes in production activities for farm types over time and evaluated the environmental and food-production impacts, where landscape openness is quantified using a novel indicator. Results and conclusion: Our results show that there is not one single farm type that would simultaneously maximize food production, grassland biodiversity, and landscape openness, whilst minimizing GHG emissions. However, there exists considerable potential to manage the trade-offs between food production and these environmental variables. For example, by reducing land use for dairying and instead increasing both cropping for food production and extensive livestock grazing to maintain landscape openness and biodiversity-rich semi-natural pastures, it would keep food production at similar levels. Significance: Our farm typology allows us to assess the multifunctionality of farming, by relating contrasting production activities to multiple ecosystem services, grassland biodiversity and GHG emissions for informing policy towards more sustainable agriculture. We have demonstrated this with examples under Swedish conditions, but it should to a large extent also be applicable for other countries.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
NBO was supported by the strategic research area BECC , FR was supported by the Crafoord Foundation and the Faculty of Science, Lund University , and GKA was supported by FORMAS project 2017-01593 “Anticipating and mitigating impacts of future agricultural policy reform on biodiversity and ecosystem services in mixed farming-forestry landscapes” (Farm2Forest). PC's contribution was supported by the FORMAS project 2016-00701 “From field borders to production forests: management of woody habitat for farmland biodiversity”. The research presented in this paper is a contribution to the strategic research area Biodiversity and Ecosystems in a Changing Climate, BECC. We would also like to thank three anonymous reviewers and the editor for providing invaluable comments and suggestions to the paper.
© 2021 The Authors
Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
- Ecosystem services
- Farm typology
- Food production
- Landscape openness
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Agronomy and Crop Science