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Research article2015Peer reviewedOpen access

Biological control as an ecosystem service: partitioning contributions of nature and human inputs to yield

Bengtsson, Jan


1. The concept of ecosystem services (ES) has rapidly entered policy and planning agendas nationally and globally. However, its usefulness is hampered by, for example, insufficient understanding of underlying ecological processes and poorly developed and competing conceptual frameworks. 2. It is suggested that final ecosystem services, such as yield, can be partitioned into components describing contributions from ecosystems (regulating and maintenance ES as natural inputs) and human inputs. This conceptual framework is tested by examining the relative importance of farming system (conventional vs. organic, indicating human inputs, and management), landscape (field shape and landscape heterogeneity), and biological control of aphids by natural enemies (indicating a regulating ES) for barley yield on 10 fields in central Sweden. 3. Although biological control was related to increased yield, its contribution was relatively small (<20%). The farming system explained most of the magnitude and variation in yield (47% of the variation, of which 34% was unique). Landscape and biological control had the largest shared contribution to variation in yield (14%). Conventional farming management seemed to have a larger effect on yield than biological control. This could be interpreted as indicating that agricultural production should be further intensified to increase yields, but a high dependency on external inputs may cause further environmental problems, such as eutrophication, and may not be sustainable. 4. Although preliminary, the results suggest that partitioning of natural and human inputs is useful to analyse the contribution of regulating ES to final ecosystem services, and how ES are co-produced by ecosystems and humans.


Additive partitioning; agricultural landscapes; aphids; biological pest control; co-production; ecosystem services; natural enemies; organic farming; variance partitioning; yield

Published in

Ecological Entomology
2015, Volume: 40, number: S1, pages: 45-55

    Associated SLU-program

    SLU Plant Protection Network

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Agricultural Science

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