Biodiversity and pollination benefits trade off against profit in an intensive farming system

Jeroen Scheper*, Isabelle Badenhausser, Jochen Kantelhardt, Stefan Kirchweger, Ignasi Bartomeus, Vincent Bretagnolle, Yann Clough, Nicolas Gross, Ivo Raemakers, Montserrat Vilà, Carlos Zaragoza-Trello, David Kleijn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Agricultural expansion and intensification have boosted global food production but have come at the cost of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. Biodiversity-friendly farming that boosts ecosystem services, such as pollination and natural pest control, is widely being advocated to maintain and improve agricultural productivity while safeguarding biodiversity. A vast body of evidence showing the agronomic benefits of enhanced ecosystem service delivery represent important incentives to adopt practices enhancing biodiversity. However, the costs of biodiversity-friendly management are rarely taken into account and may represent a major barrier impeding uptake by farmers. Whether and how biodiversity conservation, ecosystem service delivery, and farm profit can go hand in hand is unknown. Here, we quantify the ecological, agronomic, and net economic benefits of biodiversity-friendly farming in an intensive grassland-sunflower system in Southwest France. We found that reducing land-use intensity on agricultural grasslands drastically enhances flower availability and wild bee diversity, including rare species. Biodiversity-friendly management on grasslands furthermore resulted in an up to 17% higher revenue on neighboring sunflower fields through positive effects on pollination service delivery. However, the opportunity costs of reduced grassland forage yields consistently exceeded the economic benefits of enhanced sunflower pollination. Our results highlight that profitability is often a key constraint hampering adoption of biodiversity-based farming and uptake critically depends on society's willingness to pay for associated delivery of public goods such as biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2212124120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2023


  • agroecology
  • biodiversity-friendly farming
  • ecosystem services
  • land-use intensity
  • wild bees


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