UBC Undergraduate Research

Enhancing Biodiversity and Resilience : Informing a Climate-Friendly Food System Procurement Strategy at UBC Clarke, Sarah; Salviejo, Liana; Taylor, Julia; Kim, Vicky; Schleindl, Luke; Bell, Ashley


When considering and reflecting on our food systems, sustainability is increasingly becoming an issue of focus and action. Within the concept of sustainability, biodiversity is a key issue impacted by many components of food systems. From an ecological and agricultural perspective, biodiversity is important for sustainability as it contributes to ecosystem health and function, ecosystem resilience, and climate change mitigation (Campbell et al., 2008). Through these functions, biodiversity also contributes to food system productivity and resilience (Isbell et al., 2015). As we experience the impacts of climate change such as increased temperature and extreme weather events, biodiversity is becoming increasingly important to enable our food systems to persevere (Isbell et al., 2015). Currently, many aspects of our production systems are contributing to the loss of biodiversity. Most conventional agricultural practices and land-uses are drivers of global biodiversity loss, and contribute to approximately one-third of greenhouse gas emissions (Dudley & Alexander, 2017; Crippa et al., 2021). Evidently, continuation of the practices will only contribute to the agricultural challenges associated with global warming. In the context of the University of British Columbia’s (UBC’s) food system, biodiversity has been identified as an important food systems issue, as described in the Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2030. From this, the need for biodiversity-specific procurement information was recognized. Contributing to a campus wide Climate-Friendly Food System Procurement Strategy, this project aims to inform development focusing on food system biodiversity and supply-chain resilience. This goal is achieved through several actions. Primary data was collected following Community Based Action Research (CBAR) methodology, incorporating critical stakeholders (Burns et al., 2011). Stakeholders include UBC food procurement representatives, UBC researchers, and student organizations. Secondary data was also collected through a review of available literature and an environmental scan of institutions and municipalities. Several issues are investigated by the primary data collection: 1. Ideal biodiverse food procurement, 2. Gaps and barriers with biodiverse food procurement, and 3. Demands to achieve biodiverse food procurement. Primary data results identified several sub-themes within each concept as follows: 1. Local and seasonal foods, best-practice producers, and indicators and measurement, biodiversity and resilience definition, minimized food waste, and accessible pricing; 2. Perceived procurement costs, perceived student costs, consumers demands, and education; 3. Framework for a circular food system, and creation of a charter. Results from the secondary research explore a relatively broad range of topics relating to findings from the primary data collection. The importance of biodiversity, associated farm practices, foods promoting biodiversity, and producers locality are described. Certifications and the cost of biodiverse foods are also discussed. From our primary and secondary results, short-term, mid-term, and long-term recommendations are synthesized and described. Areas of opportunity for future research are also provided and discussed. Short and mid-term recommendations: 1. Look for eco-labels 2. Perennial crops over annuals 3. Diversify foods and varieties 4. Diversify suppliers 5. Buy directly from farmers 6. Buy seasonally Long-term recommendations: 1. Support ecological farms 2. Create a Biodiversity Action Charter 3. Create a permanent paid position Future research: 1. Increased cost of procuring biodiverse foods 2. Connections between locality, biodiversity, and other sustainability priorities Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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