We all want to protect biodiversity. And we all want to eat. These two desires increasingly come into conflict in the modern world, where one of the greatest threats to ecosystems is the increased conversion of natural habitat to agricultural production.
So how can we most effectively meet both our biodiversity and food security goals? On one hand, we could use less land for farming, but farm it intensively, leaving more natural habitat untouched. This method is known as land sparing. On the other hand, it might be better to farm larger areas less intensively. This method is called wildlife-friendly farming and involves the integration of natural habitats with farmland.
Thomas Fox will be studying agricultural practices in Kerala, India, to better understand strategies for balancing the needs of agriculture and biodiversity. Kerala is undergoing a transformation to more modern agriculture, making it an ideal location to gather valuable data on land use and ecological diversity.
Winner of a master’s level 2012 NSERC André Hamer Postgraduate Prize, Fox has noted that there are few empirical studies of the relationship between biodiversity and farming yields as they relate to landscape configuration. To document this relationship, he will study a series of plots in rice fields of varying intensity that are located in diverse landscapes. His findings will contribute to humanity's goal of preserving biodiversity while meeting the world's food requirements.