This article was originally published on Ecology is Not a Dirty Word, by Dr Manu Saunders.


“Production benefits from invertebrates (other than pollination and natural pest control) are often overlooked in agroecosystems.  There has been much more focus on the impact of insect pests. But invertebrates provide lots of other benefits in production systems. Developing sustainable farming systems is an imperative for our future – sustainable systems are those that produce food and fibre, while also enhancing human well-being and supporting ecosystem function through ecologically-sound management.  Understanding how farms can be managed to enhance production via the benefits invertebrates provide is a key to sustainable agriculture

Unmanaged invertebrates provide numerous benefits in agroecosystems, including pollination, biological pest control, soil aeration, waste decomposition and dung removal (Losey & Vaughan, 2006; Nichols et al., 2008; Cross et al., 2015). A large body of literature has examined how farm and landscape management influences beneficial invertebrate communities in agroecosystems (Bianchi et al., 2006; Chaplin-Kramer et al., 2011; Kennedy et al., 2013; Nicholls & Altieri, 2013). Yet we know very little about the direct benefits that these species provide in agroecosystems, or the ecological and biological mechanisms underlying these benefits.

…. Clearly, the future for applied ecosystem services research is bright. Unmanaged invertebrates are more numerous, more diverse and more active in global agroecosystems compared with wild vertebrates, although the knowledge we have of their distributions, life cycles and interactions is limited relative to our knowledge of vertebrates. Historically, a strong focus on invertebrates as pests, both in agroecosystems and society generally, has left large gaps in knowledge of how interactions between invertebrates benefit human well-being. Understanding how invertebrates enhance agricultural production is essential to inform sustainable management of agroecosystems, and will also go a long way towards enhancing the perception of invertebrates more broadly…”

Read on at: Ecology is Not a Dirty Word.

Access the paper ‘Ecosystem Services in Agriculture: Understanding the Multifunctional Role of Invertebrates’ here.