Ecological Intensification: Bridging the Gap between Science and Practice

Trends Ecol Evol. 2019 Feb;34(2):154-166. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2018.11.002. Epub 2018 Nov 30.


There is worldwide concern about the environmental costs of conventional intensification of agriculture. Growing evidence suggests that ecological intensification of mainstream farming can safeguard food production, with accompanying environmental benefits; however, the approach is rarely adopted by farmers. Our review of the evidence for replacing external inputs with ecosystem services shows that scientists tend to focus on processes (e.g., pollination) rather than outcomes (e.g., profits), and express benefits at spatio-temporal scales that are not always relevant to farmers. This results in mismatches in perceived benefits of ecological intensification between scientists and farmers, which hinders its uptake. We provide recommendations for overcoming these mismatches and highlight important additional factors driving uptake of nature-based management practices, such as social acceptability of farming.

Keywords: agricultural production; biodiversity; ecosystem services; farmer behaviour.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / methods*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Ecology / methods*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Perception*