Increasing food production to meet the world’s food needs while ensuring long-term economic and ecological sustainability is one of the 21st century’s biggest challenges. Researchers at UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM) are investigating how farming methods that focus on supporting biodiversity may play an important role in addressing this challenge, while lessening the harmful effects of intensive farming methods.
UC Berkeley has been awarded a $1.3 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to conduct ecological research and socio-economic analyses on lettuce farms that vary in their use of practices that support biodiversity. The project will take place along the central coast of California, one of the nation’s most productive agricultural regions—yet also an area in which the negative effects of intensive farming are readily apparent.
Tim Bowles, an ESPM assistant professor, will lead the project along with an interdisciplinary team in ESPM which includes CCB faculty, professor Carl Boettiger.
“Through this project we are excited to learn from farmers who promote biodiversity on their farms, including the benefits they get from doing so, and the barriers to using these practices,” said Bowles. “By taking this interdisciplinary approach, we hope to inform smart policies that would allow more farmers to rely on biodiversity for increasing the profitability and sustainability.” The NSF program that will fund the project, Dynamics of Coupled Natural Human Systems, focuses on research that improves understanding of human-environment interactions.