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The role of agricultural biodiversity in strengthening resilience to climate change: towards an analytical framework

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Traditional agricultural communities manage biodiversity at various scales, creating dynamic landscape mosaics of fields, gardens, orchards, pastures and ecosystem patches. Agricultural biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge are essential to the climate change resilience of these landscapes, but their roles are largely overlooked by researchers and policy makers. A review of 172 case studies and project reports from around the world shows that agricultural biodiversity contributes to resilience through a number of, often combined, strategies: the protection and restoration of ecosystems, the sustainable use of soil and water resources, agro-forestry, diversification of farming systems, various adjustments in cultivation practices and the use of stress-tolerant crops and crop improvement. Using social–ecological systems theory as a conceptual framework, these practices are examined to identify indicators of resilience in agricultural landscapes. The indicators are a first step in the development of a framework for assessing and building climate change resilience, intended both for local communities and for the scientists and organizations working closely with them. The framework can be used to (i) identify biodiversity management practices and social institutions that can be encouraged as ways to strengthen resilience, (ii) monitor the resilience of a landscape/community over time and (iii) aggregate and compare data across communities and landscapes.

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