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To what extent has sustainable intensification in England been achieved?

To what extent has sustainable intensification in England been achieved?
To what extent has sustainable intensification in England been achieved?
Agricultural intensification has significantly increased yields and fed growing populations across the planet, but has also led to considerable environmental degradation. In response an alternative process of ‘Sustainable Intensification’ (SI), whereby food production increases while environmental impacts are reduced, has been advocated as necessary, if not sufficient, for delivering food and environmental security. However, the extent to which SI has begun, the main drivers of SI, and the degree to which degradation is simply ‘offshored’ are uncertain. In this study we assess agroecosystem services in England and two contrasting sub-regions, majority-arable Eastern England and majority-pastoral South-Western England, since 1950 by analysing ecosystem service metrics and developing a simple system dynamics model. We find that rapid agricultural intensification drove significant environmental degradation in England in the early 1980s, but that most ecosystem services except farmland biodiversity began to recover after 2000, primarily due to reduced livestock and fertiliser usage decoupling from high yields. This partially follows the trajectory of an Environmental Kuznets Curve, with yields and GDP growth decoupling from environmental degradation above ~£17,000 per capita per annum. Together, these trends suggest that SI has begun in England. However, the lack of recovery in farmland biodiversity, and the reduction in UK food self-sufficiency resulting in some agricultural impacts being ‘offshored’, represent major negative trade-offs. Maintaining yields and restoring biodiversity while also addressing climate change, offshored degradation, and post-Brexit subsidy changes will require significant further SI in the future.
Ecosystem Services, Agroecosystems, Environmental Kuznets Curve, Socio-46 Ecological Systems, System Dynamics Modelling, Biodiversity Loss
0048-9697
1560-1569
Armstrong McKay, David
9e7fc75d-311e-4980-9911-288d965a9e56
Dearing, John
dff37300-b8a6-4406-ad84-89aa01de03d7
Dyke, James
e2cc1b09-ae44-4525-88ed-87ee08baad2c
Poppy, Guy
e18524cf-10ae-4ab4-b50c-e73e7d841389
Firbank, Les
5ed8f574-1c7c-40be-9f29-9f42a94c2a64
Armstrong McKay, David
9e7fc75d-311e-4980-9911-288d965a9e56
Dearing, John
dff37300-b8a6-4406-ad84-89aa01de03d7
Dyke, James
e2cc1b09-ae44-4525-88ed-87ee08baad2c
Poppy, Guy
e18524cf-10ae-4ab4-b50c-e73e7d841389
Firbank, Les
5ed8f574-1c7c-40be-9f29-9f42a94c2a64

Armstrong McKay, David, Dearing, John, Dyke, James, Poppy, Guy and Firbank, Les (2018) To what extent has sustainable intensification in England been achieved? Science of the Total Environment, 648, 1560-1569. (doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.207).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Agricultural intensification has significantly increased yields and fed growing populations across the planet, but has also led to considerable environmental degradation. In response an alternative process of ‘Sustainable Intensification’ (SI), whereby food production increases while environmental impacts are reduced, has been advocated as necessary, if not sufficient, for delivering food and environmental security. However, the extent to which SI has begun, the main drivers of SI, and the degree to which degradation is simply ‘offshored’ are uncertain. In this study we assess agroecosystem services in England and two contrasting sub-regions, majority-arable Eastern England and majority-pastoral South-Western England, since 1950 by analysing ecosystem service metrics and developing a simple system dynamics model. We find that rapid agricultural intensification drove significant environmental degradation in England in the early 1980s, but that most ecosystem services except farmland biodiversity began to recover after 2000, primarily due to reduced livestock and fertiliser usage decoupling from high yields. This partially follows the trajectory of an Environmental Kuznets Curve, with yields and GDP growth decoupling from environmental degradation above ~£17,000 per capita per annum. Together, these trends suggest that SI has begun in England. However, the lack of recovery in farmland biodiversity, and the reduction in UK food self-sufficiency resulting in some agricultural impacts being ‘offshored’, represent major negative trade-offs. Maintaining yields and restoring biodiversity while also addressing climate change, offshored degradation, and post-Brexit subsidy changes will require significant further SI in the future.

Text
Armstrong McKay et al 2018 - STOTEN - Accepted Manuscript - Accepted Manuscript
Restricted to Repository staff only until 21 August 2019.
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 20 August 2018
e-pub ahead of print date: 21 August 2018
Keywords: Ecosystem Services, Agroecosystems, Environmental Kuznets Curve, Socio-46 Ecological Systems, System Dynamics Modelling, Biodiversity Loss

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 424635
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/424635
ISSN: 0048-9697
PURE UUID: df409521-4e50-4140-9fb0-24c11c8ca64a
ORCID for David Armstrong McKay: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-0020-7461
ORCID for John Dearing: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-1466-9640
ORCID for James Dyke: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6779-1682

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 05 Oct 2018 11:39
Last modified: 14 Mar 2019 01:43

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