Ian Taylor/CPWF Mekong

Ecosystem Services and Resilience

The value and potential of agricultural ecosystems

In the past, agriculture was considered the big menace to ecosystems, responsible for deforestation, water pollution and degrading natural resources. At times this has pitted those concerned with feeding people and alleviating poverty against those who want to preserve ‘natural’ ecosystems. Today, we recognize that agricultural ecosystems are the world’s largest ecosystem and play a central role in ensuring both human health and environmental health.

Agriculture is dependent on ecosystems to provide healthy diets for a growing global population; on the flip side, decisions we make regarding how to manage agricultural landscapes can transform their impact on the environment and contribute to environmental conservation and restoration.

The Ecosystem Services and Resilience cross-cutting research theme seeks to understand how services and benefits from ecosystems can be sustainably harnessed for food production and livelihood improvement. The CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) and its partners work with decision makers in developing countries and globally to consider ecosystems and the benefits they provide when investing in food and energy production as an essential strategy to achieving poverty alleviation and food security. This objective is central to all of WLE’s research themes and its approach.

An integrated approach to natural resource management

The research theme is working to establish a network of researchers that can develop, adapt and use cutting-edge tools to guide decisions on agricultural intensification and landscape management of biodiversity, soils and water. The aim is to encourage a greater focus, from a wide range of scientists, on developing and proving solutions whereby the environment’s contribution to sustainably increasing food production is valued and put to use.

Ladybeetles, important predators of cotton aphid pests.

In late 2014 WLE published its Ecosystem Services and Resilience Framework. The Framework serves as the guiding document for WLE’s efforts to ensure that ecosystem services and resilience concepts are incorporated into agricultural development and resource management decisions. [read more]

Bringing back resilience

Healthy, resilient socio-ecosystems can sustainably increase food security and alleviate poverty. Protecting landscapes while also allowing farmers and industries to harness the benefits they provide will require carefully considered management and investment.

Fishing by lantern in the Solomon Islands.
Wade Fairley/WorldFish

Throughout history, communities have gained from the landscapes they inhabit, benefitting from services such as clean water, rich soil, and abundant wildlife. In many cases, the diverse human use of such landscapes has come to maintain or even enhance their biodiversity and the ecosystem services they provide. Yet, global development pressures—industrialization, urbanization, and globalization—are threatening the resilience of these socio-ecological production land- and seascapes. In partnership with the Satoyama Initiative, WLE partner Bioversity International produced a toolkit that can help communities address threats to the land- and seascapes they depend on. [read more]