Environmental services and agriculture

The benefits that humans have realized from agriculture have been immense. Today, agriculture feeds over 6 billion people, and recent decades have seen significant increases in the productivity of agriculture with the introduction of new varieties and production methods (Tilman et al., 2002). However, these benefits have come at a cost. Of the ecosystem services evaluated in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, agriculture is credited with increasing the provisioning services of food and fibre production over the past half century, but at the expense of degradation of many other ecosystem services. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, as well as reports arising from other more recent studies such as Water for food: water for life (Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture, 2007) and Livestock’s long shadow: environmental issues and options (FAO, 2006a) recognize that agriculture can and should be managed to enhance ecosystem services beyond the provision of food and other goods.

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