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Volume 12, Issue 5 p. 288-296
Review

Farmland abandonment: threat or opportunity for biodiversity conservation? A global review

Cibele Queiroz

Corresponding Author

Cibele Queiroz

Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

Centre for Environmental Biology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal

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Ruth Beilin

Ruth Beilin

Melbourne School of Land and Environment, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

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Carl Folke

Carl Folke

Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden

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Regina Lindborg

Regina Lindborg

Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

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First published: 01 June 2014
Citations: 363

Abstract

Farmland abandonment is changing rural landscapes worldwide, but its impacts on biodiversity are still being debated in the scientific literature. While some researchers see it as a threat to biodiversity, others view it as an opportunity for habitat regeneration. We reviewed 276 published studies describing various effects of farmland abandonment on biodiversity and found that a study's geographic region, selected metrics, assessed taxa, and conservation focus significantly affected how those impacts were reported. Countries in Eurasia and the New World reported mainly negative and positive effects of farmland abandonment on biodiversity, respectively. Notably, contrasting impacts were recorded in different agricultural regions of the world that were otherwise similar in land-use and biodiversity characteristics. We showed that the conservation focus (pre- or post-abandonment) in different regions is an important factor influencing how scientists address the abandonment issue, and this may affect how land-use policies are defined in agricultural landscapes.