Invertebrate biodiversity continues to decline in cropland

Francesca Mancini, Rob Cooke, Ben A. Woodcock, Arran Greenop, Andrew C. Johnson and Nick J. B. Isaac | Royal Society Volume 290 Issue 2000 | 2023 | Peer Reviewed | Original research |


Modern agriculture has drastically changed global landscapes and introduced pressures on wildlife populations. Policy and management of agricultural systems has changed over the last 30 years, a period characterized not only by intensive agricultural practices but also by an increasing push towards sustainability. It is crucial that we understand the long-term consequences of agriculture on beneficial invertebrates and assess if policy and management approaches recently introduced are supporting their recovery. In this study, we use large citizen science datasets to derive trends in invertebrate occupancy in Great Britain between 1990 and 2019. We compare these trends between regions of no- (0%), low- (greater than 0–50%) and high-cropland (greater than 50%) cover, which includes arable and horticultural crops. Although we detect general declines, invertebrate groups are declining most strongly in high-cropland cover regions. This suggests that even in the light of improved policy and management over the last 30 years, the way we are managing cropland is failing to conserve and restore invertebrate communities. New policy-based drivers and incentives are required to support the resilience and sustainability of agricultural ecosystems. Post-Brexit changes in UK agricultural policy and reforms under the Environment Act offer opportunities to improve agricultural landscapes for the benefit of biodiversity and society.