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Agricultural biodiversity conversation

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Agricultural biodiversity is defined as the variability and variety of plants, animals and microorganisms that are used in agriculture and food. To specify it, agricultural biodiversity can be expanded and categorized it into ecological diversity, genetic diversity and organismal diversity. Agricultural is not only a subset of biodiversity, somehow it embraces units and habitats that are usually not accepted or recognized by some biologists as a part of biological diversity. Agricultural biodiversity is the results of the interactions between humans and natural ecosystem and brings beneficial to human health and nutrition and able to provide humans with goods and services. It includes species that are used directly and indirectly in food and agriculture and species that are not included in the farming system. Diets, food intake, nutrition, and ingredients for food preparation, cooking processing and storage are also one of the elements of agricultural biodiversity. Besides, agricultural biodiversity also includes physical, social, cultural, ethical, spiritual elements and elements that benefits and harms the crops, food production, and ecosystem. For instance, pollination is one of the elements that can bring beneficial not only to food production but ecosystem. Likewise, pests and diseases are few of the elements of agricultural biodiversity that affect crops adversely.

The number of plant species and animal species that were successfully domesticated has been decreased across the centuries due to the simplification of agriculture also known as agricultural revolution. The ease of cultivation, the nutrition that the species are able to produce and the species that are able to be grown in a particular habitat are the reasons of the simplification of agriculture. Over the centuries, natural selection and artificial selection have developed a complex diversity of local varieties or landraces. Due to the difference of external conditions in such soil type, weather, climate, landraces or primitive cultivars have their own adaptation, and characteristics such as nutritional value, use and date of maturity.

The simplification of agriculture has caused some controversies. Researchers suggested that it reduces human’s dietary diversity due to intensification of agriculture. It brings adverse effect on human health due to human only rely on tiny number of crop species for instance the staples, which are mainly barley, wheat rice, millet, etc. and might cause malnutrition and has higher chance of getting infection by diseases. However, some researchers suggested that by growing such crops, others can concentrate on finding other nutrients, and so they can have balance nutrition. In short, it cannot be denied that the intensification of agriculture has sustained human population growth.

Simplification of agriculture is mainly caused by modern intensive agriculture, while others are small-scale agriculture and other various forms of traditional agriculture, home gardens. However, the substitution of landraces by more advanced cultivars has caused genetic erosion of the crop species, loss of landraces.

Humans in global depend only 7,000 out of 400,000 species of plants as their staples in order to maintain adequate nutrition. They are normally cultivation crops, underutilized or orphan crops, wild-gathered plant species, crop wild relatives. Wild-gathered plant species are not only used as food, they are also used as fibres, fuel, ornament and medicines. They are still popular in tropics, developing countries and the Mediterranean region especially for rural people, as they provide rural poor with most of their daily requirement of essential vitamins and minerals. As wild-gathered species play important role to humans nowadays for instance increase income, nutritional benefits, some domestication programmes are being developed to bring wild species into cultivation.

The term ‘Underutilized species’ is defined as those species that can improve people’s livelihoods, food security, domestication but due to lack of competitiveness with domesticated crops, they are not fully utilized. However, these species are receiving more recognition which more and more report and meeting has mentioned the importance of underutilized species. Next, crop wild relatives are an essential source of genetic material for getting better adapted crops even though it is not a major role in human nutrition. Hence, it is also now widely recognized that crop wild relatives will play a role in future food security when facing global change.

Animal diversity for instance dairy products, eggs, meat, etc. also plays important role in human nutrition and dietary diversity. It mainly contains proteins, fat, some vitamins and nutrition that might not have in the plants. It might not a major part of some people’s diet due to dietary restriction, financial restriction, supply restriction. Wild meat can be defined as non-domesticated mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians hunted for food. However, due to excessive hunting of some wild animals, it is threatening the livelihoods of some forest communities. . The demand for animal source foods has been increasing in recent years. Hence, industrial livestock production is needed to supplement the wild meat. However, it is reported that the practice of cultivation is not sustainable due the large usage of land surface. Next, fish and crustaceans is a major source for coastal, lacustrine and riverine communities. Fish play important role in developing countries especially in rural area, to get sufficient nutrition. Now, nearly 50 percent of fish eaten are cultivated, not wild capture. As fish also provide adequate protein, vitamins and minerals to human, the world fish consumption has been increasing in recent years.

Nevertheless, agricultural intensification is threatening our biodiversity around the world. It threatens rare or almost extinct plant and animal species, adverse effect on biodiversity, changed our dietary patterns, and overuse on energy and water. Therefore, some researchers proposed new paradigms to solve this problem. The main concept of the new paradigms is maintaining intensification of agricultural production but without simplification. In the other words, maximize the productivity from the same area of land while conserving the environment and resources. It is important that healthy ecosystems provide not only goods and services to human but the entire agricultural systems.

Governments and policymakers overpass the relationship between biodiversity conservation and poverty. In fact, local biodiversity and ecosystem services play important role in developing countries especially in rural area. It provides food, medicine, fibre, fuel wood etc. to the local communities. However, local agricultural biodiversity such as traditional crops, underutilized species and wild-harvested species is less concerned by public because of lacking of evidence, research, literature reviews and knowledge on the underutilized crops and wild-harvested species. Hence, some researchers encourage others to do research on local biodiversity and nutrition in order to have better understanding of local dietary contributions, and local modification by various processing techniques.

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