RSPB Lake Vyrnwy Nature Reserve

Balancing food and the environment

Agriculture in the UK will need to rise to the many challenges it faces, in many cases pursuing synergistic solutions to move toward a sustainable vision for the future.

Finding a balance

Across the globe, we are making greater demands on land than ever before.

Driven by a rapid increase in global population, changes in individual consumption patterns and levels, and requirements for new products from land, these increasing demands are markedly exacerbated by the impacts of climate change.

In the UK, our population of 60 million people is supported by extensive imports of land-based products, such as food, fibre and fuel. 

At present, we are consuming at least 2.5 times our fair share of natural resources – effectively exporting much of our land and resource use 'footprint'.

How will climate change affect agriculture in the UK?

Climate change will have a significant impact on agriculture in the UK.

There will be both positive (such as longer growing seasons and the possibility of growing different crops), and negative (such as reduced water availability for irrigation in many areas and more frequent flood events) impacts to consider.

For wildlife in the UK, the impacts of climate change will be more dramatic. While for some species, climate change may prove to be a positive influence (eg by increasing their potential range), for the majority, existing pressures such as habitat loss and pollution will compound the effects of climate change, to drive many species closer to extinction.

The challenges the UK faces

Agriculture in the UK will need to rise to the many challenges it faces, in many cases pursuing synergistic solutions to move toward a sustainable vision for the future. In the face of climate change, for example, agriculture will need to both reduce the emissions associated with its practices, and respond to the direct impacts of changing weather patterns.

Making the wider countryside more permeable to wildlife is essential to support species' adaptation to climate, and agriculture will also have an important role to play in achieving this.

Hope Farm, Knapwell RSPB, hedgerow, field of winter wheat.

Download

RSPB Paper to the Oxford Farming Conference 2012. Setting out the production and environmental challenges facing farming. PDF, 78Kb.

Balancing agricultural production and conservation

Meeting Scotland’s land use needs sustainably. PDF, 589Kb.

Scotland's land use future