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Biodiversity is a concept developed by E. O. Wilson in 1988, which refers to the totality of genetic variation present in life forms, from species to biomes (Wilson 1988). However, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD; 2007), expanded Wilson’s definition as follows: Biological diversity means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems’. Unfortunately, biodiversity has been dramatically reduced in the last 50 years due to climate and land use change (Sala et al. 2000), so that biodiversity loss is one of the biggest problems that humans face in the Anthropocene (Steffen et al. 2011, 2015). As biodiversity plays an important role in ecosystem function (Cardinale et al. 2012; Lefcheck et al. 2015; Gurr et al. 2017), stability (Tilman et al. 2006), resilience (Folke et al. 2004), as well as human well-being (Cardinale et al. 2012; Roberts et al. 2015), its conservation (and enhancement within degraded ecosystems) is crucial for sustaining the increasing human population through the provision of multiple ecosystem services (Wratten et al. 2012).

Conventional monoculture-based agriculture is considered to be the leading cause of biodiversity loss (Sala et al. 2000; Steffen et al. 2015; Lichtenberg et al. 2017). Biodiversity and its functions can be restored to some extent by multiple ecologically-based strategies (Tomich et al. 2011; Kremen and Miles 2012; Wezel et al. 2014; Gurr et al. 2017). As an example, habitat manipulation using floral resources that enhance arthropod ‘fitness’ and diversity has been successfully applied to manage several pest species around the world (Koohafkan et al. 2011; Wezel et al. 2014; Gurr et al. 2016; Lichtenberg et al. 2017), reducing the need for synthetic pesticides (Scarratt et al. 2008; Gurr et al. 2016). Although an increase in biodiversity in agro-ecosystems can drastically increase its sustainability through the provision of key ecosystem functions and services (Altieri 1999), there are some cases where biodiversity enhancement can have detrimental or neutral effects on ecosystem functions (Tscharntke et al. 2016). For this reason, agricultural techniques that aim at increasing biodiversity in agro-ecosystems need appropriate research that takes into account the effect of local cultural, economic and environmental conditions on different management strategies. For example, the provision of shelter, nectar, alternative food and pollen (SNAP) can increase the efficacy of biological control of pests (Gurr et al. 2017). Successful examples of increasing biodiversity, and thus promoting ecosystem functions within agro-ecosystems can be found in South-east Asia (Gurr et al. 2016), Oceania (Scarratt et al. 2008), Central Africa (Pickett et al. 2014), South America (Altieri and Toledo 2011) and elsewhere (Kremen and Miles 2012; Wezel et al. 2014; Lichtenberg et al. 2017).

Due to recent scientific advances of biodiversity-based research on diversity and agro-ecosystem functions, and the need for sustainable agricultural methods that satisfy current environmental problems, the spiral concept, proposed here, can be a crucial component of developing future sustainable agricultural systems. However, enhancing appropriate biodiversity within agro-ecosystems requires a series of crucial steps and the interactive web-based spiral approach developed here illustrates such a pathway.


Extracted pages from E. O. Wilson 1988 about biodiversity 

Examples of high and low-diversity farmland

Phacelia tanacetifolia in maize fields to produce shelter, nectar, alternative food and pollen (SNAP) for natural enemies 

A diversified farmland to enhance several ecosystem services. Illustration: Andrew Holder / Xerces Society

Cabbage monoculture as an example of low-diversity farmland 



Altieri MA, 1999. The ecological role of biodiversity in agroecosystems. Agriculture Ecosystems and  Environment 74:19–31.

Altieri MA, Toledo VM, 2011. The agroecological revolution in Latin America: rescuing nature, ensuring food sovereignty and empowering peasants. Journal of Peasant Studies 38:587–612.

Cardinale BJ, Duffy JE, Gonzalez A, et al, 2012. Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity. Nature 486:59–67.

Folke C, Carpenter S, Walker B, et al, 2004. Regime shifts, resilience, and biodiversity in ecosystem management. Annual Review of Ecology Evolution and Systematics 35:557–581.

Gurr G, Wratten SD, Landis DA, You M, 2017. Habitat management to suppress pest populations: Progress and prospects. Annual Review of Entomology 62:91–109.

Gurr GM, Lu Z, Zheng X, et al, 2016. Multi-country evidence that crop diversification promotes ecological intensification of agriculture. Nature Plants 2:16014.

Koohafkan P, Altieri MA, Gimenez EH, 2011. Green agriculture: foundations for biodiverse, resilient and productive agricultural systems. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 10:1–13.

Kremen C, Miles A, 2012. Ecosystem services in biologically diversified versus conventional farming systems: Benefits, externalities, and trade-offs. Ecology and Society 17:40.

Lefcheck JS, Byrnes JEK, Isbell F, et al, 2015. Biodiversity enhances ecosystem multifunctionality across trophic levels and habitats. Nature Communications 6:6936.

Lichtenberg EM, Kennedy CM, Kremen C, et al, 2017. A global synthesis of the effects of diversified farming systems on arthropod diversity within fields and across agricultural landscapes. Global Change Biology 1–12.

Pickett JA, Woodcock CM, Midega CAO, Khan ZR, 2014. Push-pull farming systems. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 26:125–132.

Roberts L, Brower A, Kerr G, et al, 2015. The Nature of Wellbeing: How Nature’s ecosystem services contribute to the wellbeing of New Zealand and New Zealanders. New Zealand Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.

Sala OE, Chapin III FS, Armesto JJ, et al, 2000. Global biodiversity scenarios for the year 2100. Science 287:1770–1774.

Scarratt SL, Wratten SD, Shishehbor P, 2008. Measuring parasitoid movement from floral resources in a vineyard. Biological Control 46:107–113.

Steffen W, Persson Å, Deutsch L, et al, 2011. The Anthropocene: From global change to planetary stewardship. AMBIO A Journal of the Human Environment 40:739–761.

Steffen W, Richardson K, Rockström J, et al, 2015. Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science 347:1259855.

Tilman D, Reich PB, Knops JMH, 2006. Biodiversity and ecosystem stability in a decade-long grassland experiment. Nature 441:629–632.

Tomich TP, Brodt S, Ferris H, et al, 2011. Agroecology: A Review from a global-change perspective. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 36:193–222.

Tscharntke T, Karp DS, Chaplin-kramer R, et al, 2016. When natural habitat fails to enhance biological pest control - Five hypotheses. Biological Conservation 204 B: 449-458.

Wezel A, Casagrande M, Celette F, et al, 2014. Agroecological practices for sustainable agriculture. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 34:1–20.

Wilson EO (1988) Biodiversity. National Academy Press, Washington DC, Estados Unidos.

Wratten SD, Gillespie M, Decourtye A, et al, 2012. Pollinator habitat enhancement: Benefits to other ecosystem services. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 159:112–122.


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