Change in land use

Changes to the way land is used is a driver of biodiversity loss, impacting on the landscape to the detriment of nature.

What’s going on?

With it focus on modern techniques and increased yields, agriculture has changed land across the UK. Monocrops and large scale animal farming, for example, have left the natural variety and patterns of growth stripped away.

Such changes, made to meet the needs, wants and excesses of human consumption, have had a severe impact on biodiversity.

Animal farming has grown to meet our increased demand for meat, poultry and dairy. This has impacted on biodiversity in two ways. First, it has created intense pockets of land used exclusively for raising animals, often above the land’s natural capacity. Second, it requires landscapes to be cleared to grow the supplementary food these animals needs.

Loss of forest and woodland space to open up more agricultural and farming spaces in the UK has led to the loss of established trees and shrubs and habitats for animals, birds, insects and pollinators. It’s also reduced natural ground cover and shelter for animals.

Practices common in all farming have also resulted in a change to the way we use and treat our soil.

Changes to monoculture cropping and other intensive practices – such as over grazing, ploughing and repeat cropping – have left the soil in a weakened and depleted state, making it more vulnerable to run off and soil erosion. Lack of diversity in what’s grown or reared has changed the natural ebb and flow of the land, creating a vacuum for one kind of nutrient profile.

Instead of matching crops to the land’s natural outputs, we have changed the landscape to farm for our needs, stripping out nature by cultivating every inch of the land. This has resulted in crop farming and grazing in areas that are unsustainable – such as on hills, bogs, and in waterlogged areas.

Further, the impact of such changes has been made worse by our removal of natural resources – our redesign of natural water sources, for example – and cosmetic changes, such as over-trimming hedges during key seasons, or removing new growth.

Polluting cruise ship in harbour

Get nature positive

By farming with nature, we can reverse the harm done by changes to land use. Many are now leaving grasses wild and unmown until autumn, for example, to support biodiversity, improve carbon sequestration and provide pollinator habitat.

Changes such as choosing to expand native woodlands, increase hedgerow protection, or diversifying crops within farm production can significantly improve the biodiversity in an area. But even small changes on just 10% of farmed land can result in an impressive positive impact for nature.

And the boost to biodiversity – from healthier soil and landscape, increased pollinator diversity and abundance, and enhanced natural nutrients reducing the need for costly inputs – has clear benefits for farmers, too.                          

Inspired by steps agricultural companies are already taking, we’ve compiled suggested actions to help you on your journey to getting nature positive.