ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Designing landscapes to deliver ecosystem services to agriculture (2009-2012)

Strategic Research Area

Ecosystem Services


ARC Discovery grant, $225,000

Investigators/ Researchers 

Prof Gary Luck, Dr Peter Spooner


A fly on an almond flowerThis project addresses the National Priority Goal of Sustainable Use of Biodiversity by employing a pioneering management framework that identifies situations where agriculture can gain maximum benefit from nature's services. Services like pollination are crucial; approximately 35% of global food production comes from crops pollinated by bees or birds. These services contribute billions of dollars to production.

This is the first study to develop a methodological framework to examine the consequences of environmental change for the provision of ecosystem services via animal species traits (morphological, physiological and life-history characteristics). It is also the first study to present a systematic approach to trait selection that addresses the interrelationships among the scale of the environmental change, area of ecosystem service provision, and the most appropriate traits for analysis.

The researchers then undertook the first empirical test of this framework using birds as a case study, linking the environmental change of loss of tree cover with the ecosystem service of invertebrate pest regulation in apple orchards. They found that as tree cover around orchards increased so did the abundance and foraging rate of bird species that pursue invertebrates in flight, and this may help reduce the abundance of certain pests of apples (e.g. adult stages of Cydia pomonella and Helicoverpa armigera).


Luck, G.W., Carter, A. & Smallbone, L. ( 2013) Changes in bird functional diversity across multiple land uses: interpretations of functional redundancy depend on functional group identity. PLoS One. 8(5): e63671.

Luck, G.W., Lavorel, S., McIntyre, S. & Lumb, K. (2012) Improving the application of vertebrate trait-based frameworks to the study of ecosystem services. J. Animal Ecol. 81, 1065-76.

Luck, G.W., Harrington, R., Harrison, P.A., Kremen, C., Berry, P.M., Bugter, R., Dawson, T.P., de Bello, F., Díaz, S., Feld, C.K., Haslett, J.R., Hering, D., Kontogianni, A., Lavorel, S., Rounsevell, M., Samways, M.J., Sandin, L., Settele, J., Sykes, M.T., van den Hove, S., Vandewalle, M. and Zobel, M. (2009) Quantifying the Contribution of Organisms to the Provision of Ecosystem Services. BioScience 59, 223-35.


The model developed will greatly enhance the flow of services from nature to agriculture by linking land-use options with service availability. This will improve economic returns to local communities and agricultural industries, and promote protection of native species by recognising their contribution to agriculture.

Prof Gary Luck
Charles Sturt University – Albury

June 2014