How monoculture farming changes biodiversity

This image, taken by artist David Liittschwager shows the plants and animals collected in a square meter of South African public park over the course of 24 hours.

This image, from National Public Radio, illustrates the plants and animals found over the course of two nights and three days in an Iowa cornfield.

Robert Krulwich has a fascinating piece about the ways food systems affect ecological systems. How efficient is too efficient?

Via On Earth


    1. Flawed?  It’s not a scientific experiment.  But you’d find something comparable in healthy American prairie.

  1. this is like comparing your bedroom to your backyard. comparing bugs found on a wolf vs those found on your pet. on an ape vs on you. a lake vs. a swimming pool vs your drinking water. guess which piece of land is going to feed more people. one is raw nature one is tamed. there is a difference. on purpose.

    1. And this is merely showing you the extent of the difference. When you drive from Chicago to Denver and see a 1,000 miles of this difference it is really quite stunning.

      That’s all.

  2. Wouldn’t a better example be comparing a South African farm to a US farm. Or maybe an organic US farm to one that isn’t?

    1.  No, it’s a comparison of undeveloped prairie land to industrial monoculture.  Comparing farm to farm is fine but it’s a different comparison.

      I would think comparing Iowa prairie to Iowa farmland would make a little more sense than this comparison, though.

  3. It’s a good comparison; wild land, unfiddled-with vs. land which has been ‘beaten into submission’ for the purpose of producing one crop. (Thanks for the verbiage, Wreckrob8). It shows us what’s missing.

    1. How about comapring undeveloped parkland in the same continent to farmland instead of picking a whole other side of the globe?

    1. Maybe there is nothing you would like to eat there, but I suspect that it might feed something you would like to eat or provide land in which you could plant something you would like to eat.
      How many more ways can they find to fill us full of corn and corn by-products to justify one particular type of agribusiness?

    2. Insects are a great source of protein with very low environmental impact.  Plenty of extant cultures consider various creepy crawlies delicacies.  “Would you like to eat” is largely cultural and US culture (to a lesser extent European as well) is frightfully biophobic.

      Some of the plants found in the park are likely edible as well but since you can’t find them in your local grocery store you dismiss them as “not food”.

  4. Pointing out the purging of all life but the crop from farm fields, including the bigger, furred and feathered critters that don’t show up above is one of my favorite futile counter-arguments when I am berated for causing the death of animals to satisfy my meat-loving appetite.

    1. Well, in fairness there were definitely all kinds of furred and feathered critters rolling through the fields. They may not have been caught, but if you spend ANY time in farm country you know the fields have lots of fur and feathers.

      1.  I grew up in farm country. There used to be windbreaks (trees) and hedgerows. Been in industrial farmland recently? Not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse. Commercial orchards and vegetables are a bit better, but seed crops? Scorched earth.

  5. I get the point, and don’t necessarily disagree with the broader message. BUT I have a very hard time believing the credibility of this.  Especially with the scientific slant of boingboing that tries to pull us away from the hocus pocus baloney we are fed a lot of the time.  I spent a lot of time detasseling in Iowa corn fields, and for starters there are tons of other plants like pigweed, buttonweed, sunflowers, soybeans, switch grass and fox grass out there.  But the kicker is I’m supposed to believe not a single mosquito after 3 days and 2 Iowa evenings in a cornfield?  No way.

Comments are closed.