This module includes an overview of the history of agriculture, different agricultural practices and their relationship with biodiversity, and a discussion on the potential advantages and disadvantages of small and large-scale agriculture and how they can affect biodiversity at the ecosystem, species, and genetic levels. In addition to a background Synthesis, there are two exercises: one short discussion-based exercise focusing on decision-making at a hypothetical cacao plantation in Peru and a new exercise exploring how genetically modified crops may influence agricultural management practices, and their subsequent effects on diversity and ecosystem function on farmlands.
This resource from The Royal Society tackles head-on some of the misconceptions that are most prevalent in discussions about GMOs. It is an interactive website that features data, illustrations and videos, but is also downloadable as an attractive PDF.
Exercise: Farming Practices and Biodiversity Patterns on a Cacao Plantation in Peru
Author: J.M. Burke
This exercise presents a farming scenario where modifications could make a farm more sustainable while preserving local biodiversity. Students will discuss how changes in farming practices could help reduce impacts on ecosystem health while considering barriers to implementing these changes and how they might be overcome.
Exercise: Genetically Modified Crops and Biological Conservation on Farmlands
Author: T. Leslie, R. Jabbour
New to this module, this exercise describes the distinguishing features of genetically modified (GM) crops, what GM traits and crops are available for commercial use, and GM adoption patterns. Including background information, this exercise presents three scenarios taking place on a corn farm in Iowa :1) the conversion of natural areas to farmland; 2) the adoption of insect-resistant Bt corn; and 3) the adoption of herbicide-tolerant corn. Students are asked to infer potential effects on biological conservation of each scenario, requiring interpretation of data (or data analysis) and application of critical thinking to these address complex issues.
Presentation: Agriculture and Biodiversity
Author: L. Horrigan, D.R. Keeney, S. McKenzie, J.M. Burke