This website has a searchable database of evidence for the effectiveness of actions to improve the environmental sustainability of food production. We have grouped actions into six subject areas (synopses): aquaculture, natural pest control, soils, farmland conservation, bee conservation and bird conservation.
We gather evidence by systematically collecting studies from key scientific journals. We summarise the results of each study that are relevant to each action.
Only studies that have quantitatively monitored the effect of an action are included in a synopsis. Studies that examine the impacts of food production (without testing an intervention to reduce them) are not included.
Simple key messages outline the main effects of each action.
We derive a list of actions by consulting an advisory board of 10-20 experts in the subject. The people who have advised us are listed here. They help us identify all the potential actions food producers might adopt to improve sustainability. Actions are included regardless of whether current evidence suggests they are effective/ineffective or whether evidence is currently available. We aim to make comprehensive lists of actions, so we welcome suggestions if you find something missing.
The aquaculture synopsis focuses on actions to improve the sustainability of Atlantic salmon and warm water prawn farming. The natural pest control synopsis examines actions to enhance ecosystem services thatcontrol crop pests and weeds. The soils synopsis focuses on actions to improve soil conditions and enhance soil biodiversity. In the bee, bird and farmland synopses we also focus on actions to benefit biodiversity.
We search relevant scientific journals from volume one through to a recent volume. We also search reports, unpublished literature and evidence provided by our advisory boards. The aquaculture, natural pest control and soil synopses include studies found by systematically trawling through NERC’s Open Research Archive (containing 16,410 references in August 2012). During this search we identified all the NERC-funded studies with a focus on the UK food system and these are catalogued in the NERC Contribution pages of this website.
Two of our synopses used systematic mapping exercises undertaken by, or in partnership with, other institutions. Systematic mapping uses a rigorous search protocol (involving an array of specified search terms) to retrieve studies from several scientific databases.
The full list of sources used for each synopsis can be found here.
The systematic map for the pest control synopsis was developed in partnership with collaborators at Fondation pour la Recherche sur la Biodiversité, Paris, France. The systematic map for the farmland conservation synopsis was developed by collaborators at Harper Adams University College, UK.
Dr Neil Achterlonie, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), UK
|Natural pest control||
Dr Bhagirath Chauhan, International Rice Research Institute, Philippines
Prof Steve Banwart, University of Sheffield, UK
Dr Andrew Brown, Natural England, UK
|Bee conservation||Prof Andrew Bourke, University of East Anglia, UK
Dr Claire Carvell, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, UK
Mike Edwards, Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society, UK
Prof Dave Goulson, University of Stirling & Bumblebee Conservation Trust, UK
Dr Claire Kremen, University of California, Berkeley, USA
Dr Peter Kwapong, University of Cape Coast, Ghana
Prof Ben Oldroyd, University of Sydney, Australia
Dr Juliet Osborne, Rothamsted Research, UK
Dr Simon Potts, University of Reading, UK
Mr Matt Shardlow, Director, Buglife, UK
Dr David Sheppard, Natural England, UK
Dr Nick Sotherton, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, UK
Prof Teja Tscharntke, Georg‐August University Göttingen, Germany
Mace Vaughan, Pollinator Program Director, The Xerces Society, USA
Sven Vrdoljak, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
Dr Paul Williams, Natural History Museum, London, UK
|Farmland conservation||Prof Ian Hodge, University of Cambridge, UK
Clunie Keenleyside, Institute for European Environmental Policy, UK
Alison McKnight, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, UK
Dr Will Peach, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, UK
Prof Jules Pretty, University of Essex, UK
Dr Nicola Randall, Harper Adams University College, UK
Dr Jörn Scharlemann, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, UK
Dr Gavin Siriwardena, British Trust for Ornithology, UK
Prof Henrik Smith, Lund University, Sweden
Susan Turpie, Rural Natural Heritage & Scottish Government, UK
|Site comparison||A study that considers the effects of interventions by comparing sites that have historically had different interventions or levels of intervention.|
|Replicated||The intervention was repeated on more than one individual or site. In conservation and ecology, the number of replicates is much smaller than it would be for medical trials (when thousands of individuals are often tested). If the replicates are sites, pragmatism dictates that between five and ten replicates is a reasonable amount of replication, although more would be preferable. We provide the number of replicates wherever possible, and describe a replicated trial as ‘small’ if the number of replicates is small relative to similar studies of its kind. In the case of reintroductions, replicates are sites, not individuals.|
|Controlled||Individuals or sites treated with the intervention are compared with control individuals or sites not treated with the intervention.|
|Paired sites||Sites are considered in pairs, within which one was treated with the intervention and the other was not. Pairs of sites are selected with similar environmental conditions, such as soil type or surrounding landscape. This approach aims to reduce environmental variation and make it easier to detect a true effect of the intervention.|
|Randomized||The intervention was allocated randomly to individuals or sites. This means that the initial condition of those given the intervention is less likely to bias the outcome.|
|Before-and-after trial||Monitoring of effects was carried out before and after the intervention was imposed.|
|Review||A conventional review of literature. Generally, these have not used an agreed search protocol or quantitative assessments of the evidence.|
|Systematic review||A systematic review follows an agreed set of methods for identifying studies and carrying out a formal ‘meta-analysis’. It will weight or evaluate studies according to the strength of evidence they offer, based on the size of each study and the rigour of its design. All environmental systematic reviews are available at: www.environmentalevidence.org/index.htm|