Research

Attempts to increase productivity of agricultural land has contributed to the degradation of the natural resources base through:

1. Extension of agricultural lands into marginal zones, resulting in deforestation and fragmentation of habitats; and

2. Intensification of agriculture, which results in contamination of soils and water supply through concentration of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Both types of pressure on the natural resources base tend to decrease genetic diversity. Reversing the process would mean using an increase in genetic diversity to bolster the natural resources base and contribute to its sustainable management. Careful and selective intercropping and mixed cropping in marginal zones, for example, can reduce the stress on soils, slow the erosion of watersheds and eliminate the need for heavy application of pesticides. Sustainable biodiversity-based intensification of agriculture, including agroforestry systems, requires a considerable degree of skill in natural resources management but results in greater sustainability of productivity increases. Such agricultural systems lend themselves to biodiversity conservation and protection of natural resources by "mimicking more diverse natural ecosystems."2

Understanding how ecosystems are altered by intensive agriculture, and developing new strategies that take advantage of ecological interactions within agricultural systems, are crucial to the continuance of high productivity agriculture in the future.19

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