Food and Biodiversity

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Science  02 Sep 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6047, pp. 1231-1232
DOI: 10.1126/science.1211815

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The number of people on Earth continues to increase, although it is likely to peak at between 9 and 10 billion later in this century (1). Not only will there be more people, but they will be wealthier and will demand a more varied diet. This increasing pressure to produce more food comes at a time when productive land is being lost to urbanization and to the net negative effects of climate change (2). In the face of these threats, conservationists have long debated how best to preserve biodiversity. Some argue that the priority should be “land sharing”—simultaneously using agricultural landscapes for less-intensive cultivation (sacrificing crop yields) and conservation. Others favor “land sparing,” or maximizing agricultural outputs from some land in order to allow other land to be set aside for conservation (3, 4). On page 1289 of this issue, Phalan et al. (5) draw on surveys of biodiversity in landscapes in Ghana and India to provide some valuable hard data to inform this discussion.