The trade-off between agriculture and biodiversity in marginal areas: Can crofting and bumblebee conservation be reconciled?
Crofting is a low intensity agricultural system restricted to the Highlands and Islands of northern Scotland typified by small scale mixed livestock production and rotational cropping activities. As with other low intensity farming systems across Europe, crofting is changing in response to a range of socio-economic factors. This is having a negative impact on the populations of rare bumblebees that are associated with this agricultural system. In this paper we use an ecological-economic modelling approach to examine the likely impacts of introducing two different management options for conserving bumblebees on croft land-use and income. Two linear programming models were constructed to represent the predominant crofting systems found in the Outer Hebrides, and varying constraints on bumblebee abundance were imposed to examine the trade-off between conservation and agricultural incomes. The model outputs illustrate that in some instances it is likely that both agricultural profits and bumblebee densities can be enhanced. We conclude that policy-makers should take into consideration the type of farming system when designing cost-effective agri-environment policies for low intensity farming systems, and that improvements in bee conservation are not necessarily in conflict with maintaining farm income.
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