A review of the interactions between biodiversity, agriculture, climate change, and international trade: Research and policy priorities

Striving to feed a population set to reach almost 10 billion people by 2050 in a sustainable way is high on the research and policy agendas. Further intensification and expansion of agricultural lands would be of major concern for the environment and biodiversity. There is, therefore, a need to understand better the impacts on biodiversity from the global food system.

Many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including zero hunger, clean water, maintaining life on land and in water, and climate action, are influenced by the global food production system and the maintenance of biodiversity within and around agricultural land. Maintaining biodiversity while also supporting food security is therefore key to meeting these goals. However, biodiversity is under threat: vertebrate populations are estimated to have declined in abundance by 68% since 1970, extinction rates are estimated to be 100 to 1,000 times greater than background levels, and over 1 million species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades unless action is taken. Additionally, none of the 20 Aichi global targets to stop biodiversity loss have been achieved by the 2020 target date. 

Increased human activity is often the root of negative impacts on biodiversity: the major direct drivers of change are currently land-use change, overexploitation of species, invasive species, and pollution, with human-induced climate change predicted to be a major driver of biodiversity loss in the near future.

These direct drivers are in turn driven by an increasing human population and changing consumption patterns linked to increasing affluence, often resulting in greater demand for resource-intensive products, which will likely lead to an increase in negative biodiversity impacts.

Since biodiversity underpins functions and services that are essential to agriculture, greater consideration of the role of biodiversity in the food system is needed. In this paper, Ortiz at al., generated a conceptual framework separating the environment-agriculture-trade system into its key components, revealing complex interactions and highlighting the role of biodiversity. This process identified components that are well studied, and gaps preventing a better understanding of the interactions, trade-offs, and synergies between biodiversity, agriculture, climate change, and international trade. They have highlighted eight priorities that will promote a greater understanding of the complexities of the environment-agriculture-trade system. This includes addressing biodiversity while discussing global-scale studies of the impact of food production on the environment; understanding the feedback of climate-induced biodiversity change on agriculture and forging multidisciplinary data sharing.

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