This “excised excerpt” is one of several I’ll be posting here that I was not able to fit in my forthcoming book Beginning to End Hungerbut which I think are useful or (hopefully) interesting and informative. As a friend said when I made the difficult decision to cut this out, “That’s what blogs are for.” :-p

In this case, it is my simple (but hopefully not overly simplistic) two-paragraph summary of the land-sparing/land-sharing debate (about which, much has been written; some might argue too much).

[The erstwhile] Box 4: The great land debate

Land sharing: Sharing both space and governance with farmers and other land-users to foster both agricultural production and biodiversity conservation. Recognizes both the need for protected areas and the need to manage agricultural land to support on-farm biodiversity and biodiversity in surrounding natural habitats. But views it as equally fundamental to conduct this management through substantively democratic and just processes, in concordance with securing adequate livelihoods for all land-users.

Land sparing: Seeking to produce as much as possible from any given agricultural plot, regardless of its impact on biodiversity within that plot, in order to allow other spaces to be set aside and protected from production, given the assumption (and some empirical results) that the net effect on biodiversity is positive if and when corresponding additional areas are placed under protection. May assume, but rarely directly addresses, substantively democratic and just mechanisms and outcomes.

Both land-sparing and land-sharing recognize the vital need for protected natural areas. But how to design, designate, and manage those areas and the spaces around them, and how to effectively implement the necessary variety of locally-tailored approaches are matters of substantial on-going debate.


Butsic, V., & Kuemmerle, T. (2015). Using optimization methods to align food production and biodiversity conservation beyond land sharing and land sparing. Ecological Applications, 25(3), 589-595.

Fischer, J., Abson, D. J., Butsic, V., Chappell, M. J., Ekroos, J., Hanspach, J., . . . von Wehrden, H. (2014). Land sparing versus land sharing: moving forward. Conservation Letters, 7(3), 149–157.

Hill, R., Miller, C., Newell, B., Dunlop, M., & Gordon, I. J. (2015). Why biodiversity declines as protected areas increase: the effect of the power of governance regimes on sustainable landscapes. Sustainability Science, 10(2), 357-369.

Law, E. A., Bryan, B. A., Meijaard, E., Mallawaarachchi, T., Struebig, M. J., Watts, M. E., & Wilson, K. A. (2016). Mixed policies give more options in multifunctional tropical forest landscapes. Journal of Applied Ecology, Early Access. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12666

Phalan, B., Green, R. E., Dicks, L. V., Dotta, G., Feniuk, C., Lamb, A., . . . Balmford, A. (2016). How can higher-yield farming help to spare nature? Science, 351(6272), 450-451.


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