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What Have We Learned from the Land Sparing-sharing Model?

Benjamin T. Phalan ()
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Benjamin T. Phalan: Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, College of Forestry, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA

Sustainability, 2018, vol. 10, issue 6, 1-24

Abstract: The land sparing-sharing model provides a powerful heuristic and analytical framework for understanding the potential of agricultural landscapes to support wild species. However, its conceptual and analytical strengths and limitations remain widely contested or misunderstood. Here, I review what inferences can and cannot be derived from the framework, and discuss eight specific points of contention and confusion. The land sparing-sharing framework is underpinned by an ethic that seeks to minimise harm to non-human species. It is used to quantify how good farmland is for different species, in relation to appropriate reference land uses, and at what opportunity cost. The results of empirical studies that have used the model indicate that most species will have larger populations if food is produced on as small an area as possible, while sparing as large an area of native vegetation as possible. The potential benefits of land sharing or intermediate strategies for wild species are more limited. I review disagreements about the scope of analysis (food production cf. food security), the value of high-yield farmland for wildlife, the (ir)relevance of the Borlaug hypothesis, scale and heterogeneity, fostering human connections to nature, the prospects for land sparing in heavily-modified landscapes, the role of land sparing in improving connectivity, and the political implications of the model. Interpreted alongside insights from social, political and economic studies, the model can help us to understand how decisions about land-use will affect the persistence of wild species populations into the future.

Keywords: biodiversity conservation; agricultural intensification; farmland expansion; wildlife-friendly farming; habitat restoration; trade-offs (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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