Terrestrial arthropods contribute to numerous ecosystem services vital to food security (pollination, nutrient cycling, pest control and wildlife and farm species nutrition), making agriculture one of the key sectors to be impacted by declines in arthropod diversity. The arthropod conservation agenda is made all the more urgent in the face of climate change, a growing human population, and increased uncertainty regarding global food security. A more sustainable and resilient agriculture will have to adopt measures that protect arthropod biodiversity and the services they provide, yet current greening measures are not necessarily targeted at these groups. This is unsurprising as, even under regional and international mandates to halt biodiversity loss, insects and arachnids are very much underrepresented in both policy and threat assessments despite constituting more than 60% of all currently described species.
Scientific knowledge gaps and lack of awareness by both policy-makers and stakeholders are linchpins to future effective arthropod conservation. The PhD research project therefore aims to understand the importance of information flow on the uptake of arthropod-friendly practices by Scottish and Argentinian farmers by modelling aspects of arthropod ecosystem services provision within farmer decision-making. Farmer decision-making will be represented by a agent-based model, allowing for heterogeneous decision-making by the agents (farmers); this will enable the exploration of the consequences of different farmer goals (e.g. profit-maximisation, risk-aversion, tradition, wildlife conservation) and how these can change when arthropod services information is provided. An additional research goal is the assessment of: a) how can existing information be used to model arthropod biodiversity outcomes of farmer decision-making; b) the key knowledge gaps that need to be addressed to improve the effectiveness of arthropod conservation in agricultural landscapes.