Biodiversity yields financial returns - ETH Zurich

Farmers could increase their revenues by increasing biodiversity on their land. This is the conclusion reached by an interdisciplinary research team including the fields of agricultural sciences, ecology and economics at ETH Zurich and other universities.

Many farmers associate grassland biodiversity with lower yields and financial losses. “Biodiversity is often considered unprofitable, but we show that it can, in fact, pay off,” says Nina Buchmann, Professor of Grassland Sciences at ETH Zurich. In an interdisciplinary study at the interface of agricultural sciences, ecology and economics, Buchmann and her colleagues were able to quantify the economic added value of biodiversity based on a grassland experiment that examined different intensities of cultivation. Their paper has just been published in the journal Nature Communications.

“Our work shows that biodiversity is an economically relevant factor of production,” says Robert Finger, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Policy at ETH Zurich. If 16 different plant species grow in a field instead of just one, the quality of the forage remains more or less the same, but the yield is higher – which directly correlates to the income that can be made from milk sales. “The resultant increase in revenues in our study is comparable to the difference in yield between extensively and intensively farmed land,” says Sergei Schaub, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in Finger’s and Buchmann’s groups.

Access the paper: Schaub S, Finger R, Leiber F, Probst S, Kreuzer M, Weigelt A, Buchmann N and Scherer-​Lorenzen M. Plant diversity effects on forage quality, yield and revenues of semi-​natural grasslands. Nat. Comm. (2020). doi 10.1038/s41467-​020-14541-4