Farmland field margins left natural — a benefit for all types of wildlife.

JUDIE STEEVES Appreciating full value of farmland

Its numerous benefitsmust be considered in land-use planning, UBCO prof contends. By Judie Steeves

here are more benefits provided by agricultural land than simply food production, notes biologist Lael Parrott, a professor of earth, environmental and geographic sciences at the University of BC - Okanagan. She is leading a study looking at areas suitable for biodiversity conservation on privately- owned agricultural land.


For instance, ecosystem services — benefits, often economic, that people obtain from ecosystems — are provided by farmers now.

Agriculture contributes to the quality of life of a community, she adds. “Leaving natural buffers between farms and residential neighbourhoods is good for everyone. It raises property values higher with that green space,” she says.

The agricultural landscape also helps regulate flooding and filter runoff water, she adds. “We need to consider such benefits in our land-use planning,” she believes.

Parrott is in the second year of a study funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment Canada, which is focused on exploring possibilities for conserving species at risk habitat on agricultural land, or minimizing the impact of farming on such habitat. Initially, the study included the whole Okanagan Valley, but this year, it’s been narrowed down to the Central Okanagan, in part because there are other

14 Lael Parrott habitat has been lost.”

Luckily, with agriculture, there isn’t complete destruction of natural habitat, as there might be from a parking lot, she adds.

Which makes it even more worthwhile to look at key areas to focus on where small changes in how the land is used might benefit natural species as well as the

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2015

projects underway in that region that would align well with this study, Parrott explains. In the first year, she says land use policies throughout the valley were pulled together and overlaid with conservation

interests to produce a map where

critical habitat was overlaid on the agricultural land map.

“There’s a lot of adjacency and overlap. We have a unique habitat; unique ecosystems, especially in the valley bottom where agriculture exists, and where much of the natural

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