A study has found that ‘land sparing’ – the setting aside of land for biodiversity conservation – could revitalise certain British species. Andrew Balmford, a professor of conservation science at the University of Cambridge, and a team of researchers compiled the data, which shows that more intensive farming might free up more land, creating the opportunity for rewilding greater areas of countryside. This, in turn, could generate significant increases in populations of some farmland birds.
The research lays out how farming intensively to increase yields while turning over much larger areas of farmland to wildlife would – if combined with actions to cut wastage and meat consumption – meet Britain's demand for food, while simultaneously more than doubling the populations of breeding birds. The findings were presented at a rewilding conference organised by the Cambridge Conservation Forum, with Balmford and his team studying food production and birdlife on the Cambridgeshire Fens in order to understand how larger amounts of farmland could be given to wildlife.
In order to meet Britain's growing demand for food, it's been estimated that farmed land must increase by almost a third in the next 30 years – a figure that means increasing yields is inevitable. If wastage and meat consumption were reduced significantly, less intensive and wildlife-friendly farming could take place on current farmed land in various ways, with 5 per cent spared for nature. The research suggests 101 species would increase by some 50 per cent as a result.