Sustainable agriculture

Biodiversity and ecosystems



As a major user of land in many countries agriculture has had, and continues to have, a large impact on biodiversity and ecosystems. Agro-ecosystems, biodiversity and agriculture are closely interconnected; ecological functions and ecosystem services, such as soil structure and fertility maintenance, nutrient cycling, pollination, and the regulation of pests and diseases are vital for crop production.

On the other hand, traditional agricultural practices have created diverse semi-natural habitats, such as extensive pastures and meadows, whose species depend on their existence and on the continuation of certain beneficial agricultural practices, such as low intensity grazing and traditional haymaking. But the modernisation of agriculture through intensification, concentration and specialisation can contribute to a loss of both semi-natural habitats and species abundance and richness in agricultural landscapes, and create pressures on ecosystems. There is potential for agriculture to maintain and even enhance biodiversity and agro-ecosystem services through well-designed policy interventions.


Latest reports

Alternative Payment Approaches for Biodiversity Conservation in Agriculture

Alternative Payment Approaches for Biodiversity Conservation in Agriculture

This paper reviews how governments can design and implement payment programmes that improve budgetary cost-effectiveness of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources policies. Quantitative results, based on data from Finland, show that uniform payments are less efficient than other payment types, and that auctions with environmental targeting are the most cost-effective option. The analysis finds that when targeted payments are implemented, the budgetary cost-effectiveness gains from environmental targeting are large and exceed the increase in implementation costs of the policy.




Ongoing projects

Land Use and Ecosystem Services in Agriculture (publication forthcoming 2017)

This paper investigates how policy and governance frameworks can incorporate ecosystem services and agriculture in a way that ensures the complex interrelation between them is fully taken account of. The report discusses market and governance failures in the agriculture-ecosystems relationship, presents criteria for policy choice and design, and reviews available and potential policy instruments. To show the potential benefits of improving policy design, a quantitative illustration of policy instrument choice and ecosystem service provision based on integrated economic-ecological modelling of farms is provided. Based on the analysis, a policy decision tree to guide policy decision making regarding the agriculture-ecosystem relationship is provided.


Indicators and data

Supporting the report OECD Compendium of Agri-environmental Indicators, this database features statistics on the impact of agriculture on biodiversity in OECD member countries.

Access the OECD.stat database on biodiversity in OECD countries


Other publications

The report OECD Compendium of Agri-environmental Indicators includes a chapter on Biodiversity: Farmland bird populations and agricultural land cover

This chapter reviews the environmental performance of agriculture in OECD countries with regard to biodiversity. It provides a description of the policy context (issues and main challenges), definitions for the agri-environmental indicators presented, and describes the main trends of the relevant agri-environmental indicators, using available data covering the period 1990-2010.‌

Linkages between Agricultural Policies and Environmental Effects Linkages between Agricultural Policies and Environmental Effects: Using the OECD Stylised Agri-environmental Policy Impact Model

The OECD has developed the Stylised Agri-environmental Policy Impact Model (SAPIM), which can be adapted and applied by researchers and policy makers to better understand the impact of policies on the agri-environment conditions in their countries. This report applies the model to representative farms in Finland, Japan, Switzerland and the United States.

Agriculture and Biodiversity 

Agriculture and Biodiversity: Developing Indicators for Policy Analysis

This book is a collection of papers from the OECD meeting on Agri-biodiversity Indicators held jointly with the EU and international organisations in November 2001, in Zurich-Rechkenhols, Switzerland. Papers cover the following topics; agricultural genetic resources, wild species, ecosytems, linking habitats to species and an overview of agri-biodiversity indicators. It includes a set of recommendations to OECD with respect to agri-biodiversity.


Related OECD work & contact

 Find more OECD data, analysis and publications at these sites:

For questions on OECD Trade and Agriculture Directorate work on biodiversity and ecosystems, please contact the Trade & Agriculture Directorate.


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