Effect of Agriculture on Biodiversity & Why Protect it?
Effect of Agriculture on Biodiversity
There are a number of factors that directly or indirectly link to the impact agriculture has on Biodiversity, these include:
- Arterial and field drainage - Active drainage for the creation of farmland (land reclamation) has caused a decrease in wetlands, which has led to direct damage and decline in many species of plant, mammal and insect.
- Commonage Division – Division of commonage areas into small more intensively farmed units.
- Land reclamation including the removal of small-scale farmland habitats-The removal of habitats such as trees, hedges, dry stone walls, woodland and scrub, together with land reclamation, create a decline in the native biodiversity of areas.
- The substitution of silage making for haymaking- Silage making is generally more intensive than haymaking leading to a decline in grassland habitats creating problems for many species, most publicly the corncrake (Crex crex).
- The abandonment of small-scale crop rotation -The abandonment of small-scale crop rotation and the intensification of large-scale farming has increased the amount of nutrients being added to the land resulting in eutrophication and pollution of water courses.
- Increasing the number of sheep and overgrazing of marginal grasslands and heaths - Overgrazing has caused the destruction of many habitats especially peatlands. Overgrazing results in the exposure of bare rock and the widening of rivers, and increased braiding of channels, making their course highly unstable from one flood event to another.
- Increased use of fertilisers, increased stocking densities and increased nutrient inputs through supplementary feeding - Due to these increases in fertilisers, stocking densities and nutrients there has been an increase in pollution of rivers leading to loss of biodiversity, especially in sensitive rivers such as Salmonid rivers.
Why should I protect Biodiversity?
There are many environmental, economic, ethical and social reasons why you should be concerned with protecting biodiversity on your farm. The following are some of those reasons.
The raft of legislation that is now in place at both a European and a National level makes it compulsory for you to protect and enhance biodiversity to some extent. The main pieces of legislation that apply to agriculture are The Local Government (Water Pollution Act) 1977 & 1990, The Nitrates Directive and Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters Regulation 2006. Failure to comply with legislation that is in place may result in fines, disruption to your farming operations and cost of rehabilitation for damage done. It is therefore imperative that you are aware of obligations.
Designation of Special Areas of Conservation, Natural Heritage Areas and Special Protection Areas means that there may be areas on your land that are of particular importance to biodiversity and have been afforded special protection under European and domestic legislation. The system of farming therefore is usually different here and prescribed to protect the biodiversity. It is therefore important that you are fully aware of any designations on your farmland and that your agricultural practices in these areas are in line with those prescribed.
Protect the local natural heritage
For many farmers the land that you farm today has been part of your family’s heritage for generations. The ecosystems that make up your farm are part of your natural local heritage and should be protected in order to ensure its survival.
Meet the expectations of consumers and local community
More and more there is demand from consumers and local communities for farmers to carry out their activities in a manner that is sustainable and protective of all aspects of the environment. Consumers are demanding a high standard when it comes to food and many are turning to organic produce. Likewise local communities expect farmers ‘the custodians of the landscape’ to protect and enhance the local biodiversity.