What works in conservation? Using expert assessment of summarised evidence to identify practices that enhance natural pest control in agriculture

Lynn V. Dicks, Hugh L. Wright, Joscelyne E. Ashpole, James Hutchison, Caitlin G. McCormack, Barbara Livoreil, Klaus Peter Zulka, William J. Sutherland

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This paper documents an exercise to synthesize and assess the best available scientific knowledge on the effectiveness of different farm practices at enhancing natural pest regulation in agriculture. It demonstrates a novel combination of three approaches to evidence synthesis—systematic literature search, collated synopsis and evidence assessment using an expert panel. These approaches follow a logical sequence moving from a large volume of disparate evidence to a simple, easily understandable answer for use in policy or practice. The example of natural pest regulation in agriculture was selected as a case study within two independent science-policy interface projects, one European and one British. A third funder, a private business, supported the final stage to translate the synthesized findings into a useful, simplified output for agronomists. As a whole, the case study showcases how a network of scientific knowledge holders and knowledge users can work together to improve the use of science in policy and practice. The process identified five practices with good evidence of a benefit to natural pest regulation, with the most beneficial being ‘Combine trap and repellent crops in a push–pull system’. It highlights knowledge gaps, or potential research priorities, by showing practices considered important by stakeholders for which there is not enough evidence to make an assessment of effects on natural pest regulation, including ‘Alter the timing of pesticide application.’ Finally, the process identifies several important practices where the volume of evidence of effects on natural pest regulation was too large (>300 experimental studies) to be summarised with the resources available, and for which focused systematic reviews may be the best approach. These very well studied practices include ‘Reduce tillage’ and ‘Plant more than one crop per field’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1383-1399
Number of pages17
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number7
Early online date30 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


  • Pest regulation
  • Ecosystem services
  • Natural enemy
  • Pest management
  • Agriculture
  • Evidence synthesis

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