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Workshop 1.9

Farmland (bio-)diversity in the hands and minds of farmers: Farming systems approaches to landscape protection and biodiversity preservation


Robert Home, Research Institute for Organic Agriculture (FIBL)
Maiann Suhner, Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences
Silvia Tobias, Federal Research Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape (WSL)

If you have any questions regarding this workshop, please turn directly to the convenors by sending an email.


Agricultural areas are important providers of public goods, including biodiversity and landscape. In recognition of this role, many governments have introduced, with varying degrees of success, conservation schemes, which farmers are expected to implement. This workshop will share and explore experiences from transdisciplinary approaches that have been applied in response to the inadequacies of top-down incentive schemes.


In addition to marketable products, farmers produce a range of public goods including landscape and biodiversity. Landscape evolves over time. It records the history of the generations that inhabit an area and reflects the culture in the way the space is shaped. The concept or policy behind any development of contemporary countryside should consider the complexity of landscape and integrate local traditions, culture, and values (Raszeja, 2005). Agricultural landscapes, especially those with a fine-grained mosaic and low-intensity production systems, were formerly rich in biodiversity (Edwards et al, 1999). In recent decades, however, many more intensive forms of agricultural production, with an associated decline in semi-natural landscape elements (Robinson & Sutherland 2002) have led to declining species richness (Billeter et al., 2008), and homogeneity in rural landscape. Most EU countries have introduced agro-ecological schemes aimed at protecting biodiversity and making farming more sustainable (Kleijn & Sutherland, 2003). However these top down approaches in creating agricultural policy have consistently failed to reach their full potential in either landscape protection or biodiversity preservation due to resistance or lack of interest from the farmers who are expected to implement the schemes. Lokhorst et al. (2011) demands that farmland biodiversity be placed in the hands and minds of farmers, which can be interpreted as a cry for a farming systems approach.

The bio-physical and societal challenges relating to sustainable agricultural and rural development call for new ways of supporting co creation of knowledge between farmers, scientists, and policy, in response to new and evolving knowledge needs.

This workshop deals, in a bio-regional perspective, with matters related to the bridging of policy, science and farmers’ practices, especially focusing on:
• Transdisciplinary methodologies that contribute to understanding sustainable agriculture and/or integrating farmers’ knowledge into planning and design tools that aim at preservation and regeneration of agricultural areas: (e .g. integrating landscape planning and rural development, rules for the support of ecosystem services).
• Methods within farming systems research for identifying and solving the various questions, such as the maintenance of local traditions, culture, and values, that are at stake with regard to the need for new ways of integrating knowledge for developing sustainable agriculture: especially with a view to public good issues.
• Strategies for integrating science, policy, and practice for the enhancement of sustainability in agricultural areas (e.g. collaborative development of incentive schemes).
In this respect, papers that are conceptually oriented, as well as practically oriented country studies and case studies are welcomed.

Workshop process

We will organize the workshop as an interactive short paper session with oral presentations of 5-10 minutes each, followed by an interactive roundtable discussion among presenters and the audience. We hope that the workshop will attract presentations of state of the art transdisciplinary research and that participants will learn from the recent practical experiences of others.

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