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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Research project: Ecological and Behavioural Aspects of Flora and Fauna in Relation to the Conservation Grade Approach in Agriculture

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The future of agricultural food production is recognised as an area in which major challenges exist. As noted in Professor Sir John Beddington’s recent “Foresight” report on The Future of Food & Farming, there is a need to recognise and balance the adverse and positive impacts of food production. Challenges highlighted in the Beddington report include, for example, how we might provide food at rates sufficient to meet demand, whilst maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services. Although there is a wealth of scientific research and empirical evidence appertaining to food production and its associated impacts, there remain areas that are not well supported in terms of our scientific understanding. In particular, knowledge gaps exist in relation to relatively new approaches through which food production might be maintained at sufficiently high levels but with negligible or tolerable adverse impacts.


Focus and key areas for research
A number of key areas should be addressed with respect to innovative approaches intended to balance the needs of food production with their broader impacts, for example:
What is their measurable value to biodiversity?
Are yields compromised?
Does leaving areas uncultivated to provide for pollinators and natural pest control constitute an optimal approach?
How are differing or conflicting needs reconciled and managed (e.g. small habitats for pollinators cf. larger habitats for birds)?
What is the optimal size for a habitat to ensure biodiversity?
Which habitats should be connected and how?
How do farming systems compare in terms of their delivery in regard to biodiversity and ecosystem services?
What is the broader value from ecosystem services? (e.g. to members of the public, communities)?
This project will focus on Conservation Grade (CG) approaches to food production and farmland management. As a relatively new methodology, CG has increasing recognition. The full potential of CG, however, can be better realised with an empirical evidence base, which stands to improve understanding of interactions and responses, and to provide for enhanced credibility of the CG approach.
Research projects will comprise a series of short (15 week) intensive projects forming the research element of postgraduate study. Funds provided support project research that aligns with one or more of the themes as outlined; “Conservation Grade Scholars" will receive a burasry and the remainder of the funding is allocated to meet expenses relating specifically to the research dissertations undertaken by Conservation Grade Scholars. Others choosing to research within associated areas may also receive funds to support research costs (e.g. travel and subsistence) to facilitate project work that would not otherwise be feasible.
This project is jointly supported by Conservation Grade and the Vitacress Conservation Trust.

Related research groups

Environmental Change and Sustainability (ECaS)
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