Climate change is predicted to increase the occurrence of extreme weather events throughout the UK. Simultaneously the population of the World is expected to grow from 7.2 billion to 9.6 billion by 2050. Such rapid changes to climate, increases in population, urbanisation and environmental degradation represent an unprecedented challenge to food and agricultural systems.
Natural resources are necessary to support agriculture and food production, yet research has identified that ecosystem services are being diminished due to loss of ecological complexity in agro-ecosystems. Intensively managed agricultural systems, such as many livestock farms, can become less resilient to extreme events, such as drought or floods, as a result of the erosion of ecosystem functioning. In contrast, the presence of hedgerows and trees in pasture can increase livestock productivity through the provision of shelter, whilst creating a multifunctional landscape where synergies in agricultural or ecological niches may be exploited to sustainably intensify farming practices.
Our research aims to identify and promote sustainable agricultural practices and exploit synergies in tree-livestock-soil interactions to increase agricultural productivity and resilience to climate change.