Harvesting with a combine harvester allows for more efficient yields but may have negative effects on biodiversity.
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The exploitation of farmland is being intensified with a focus on raising yields. To date, very little is known about the degree to which yields actually increase as a result and the extent of the simultaneous loss of biological diversity. Scientists now evaluated data from worldwide research in which both yield and biodiversity were examined before and after intensification measures.

Around 80 per cent of Europe’s land area is used for settlement, agriculture and forestry. In order to increase yields even further than current levels, exploitation is being intensified. “Although intensification measures increase yield, overall, they also have negative impacts on biodiversity," says Dr Michael Beckmann, a biologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig, Germany, and co-author of the study. "This is because even agricultural areas offer fauna and flora a valuable habitat – which is something that is frequently not sufficiently taken into consideration."

In addition, previous studies have mostly examined the effects of intensified land use only from one perspective: either with regard to the increase in yield or the loss of biodiversity. "We unfortunately still know far too little about the relationship between the two and what price nature ultimately has to pay for increases in yield," says Beckmann. In the new study, the international team of scientists aimed to address this knowledge gap.

Increases are yield is closely associated with loss of species

To this end, the researchers sifted through some 10,000 topically relevant studies looking for those that collected measurement data for yield and biodiversity both before and after intensification measures.

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