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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2008 Feb 27;363(1492):717-39.

Biotic interactions, ecological knowledge and agriculture.

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Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA.


This paper discusses biotic interactions in agroecosystems and how they may be manipulated to support crop productivity and environmental health by provision of ecosystem services such as weed, pest and disease management, nutrient cycling and biodiversity conservation. Important elements for understanding biotic interactions include consideration of the effects of diversity, species composition and food web structure on ecosystem processes; the impacts of timing, frequency and intensity of disturbance; and the importance of multitrophic interactions. All of these elements need to be considered at multiple scales that depend in part on the range of the movement of the organisms involved. These issues are first discussed in general, followed by an examination of the application of these concepts in agricultural management. The potential for a greater use of ecological management approaches is high; however, owing to the nature of complex interactions in ecosystems, there is some inherent unpredictability about responses to management interventions under different conditions. Such uncertainty needs to be accommodated in the development of recommendations for farm management. This requires an increased emphasis on the effective synthesis of complex and often apparently contradictory information and on field-based adaptive research, monitoring and social learning by farmer/researcher collaborations.

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