The link between agriculture, biodiversity and the environment is particularly important today in the context of the complex challenges impacting on these sectors simultaneously.

Many are aware of the important role of biodiversity in supporting crop production through, for example, the control of pests, thus reducing the dependence on agrichemicals. Other examples include the role of soil biodiversity in maintaining a fertile and nutrient-rich top soil and the critical importance of bees and other pollinators for food security globally.

Agricultural practices have shaped the Maltese environment over the millennia of human history. This has also happened in other Mediterranean countries, where agriculture has long provided communities with food, fodder and materials needed to support the rich civilisations in the region.

Today, agriculture is critical to ensure the food security of a growing human population, nationally and globally, and to safeguard other essential benefits to human life.

Agricultural areas provide a permeable surface for the recharge of Malta’s groundwater. They are also important for the removal of pollutants from the air and provide recreational areas needed for healthy living. Ongoing research by the Applied Environmental Sciences Research Group at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (Mcast) repeatedly confirms the important role of Malta’s agriculture in ensuring human well-being. However, agriculture is strongly impacted by human activities and a changing climate, limiting our ability to ensure food security, the conservation of biodiversity and in providing other benefits.

Research… repeatedly confirms the important role of Malta’s agriculture in ensuring human well-being

Motivated by a strong need for innovation in the agricultural and environmental sectors across the Mediterranean region, the Divercrop research project, which focuses on land system dynamics in the Mediterranean basin as relevant indicators for species diversity and local food systems, brings together partners from seven countries from North Africa and southern Europe, including Malta. The Mcast research group recently participated in meetings in France and Tunisia to contribute to the project’s research activities.

Divercrop assesses agricultural land use dynamics in the Mediterranean region and aims to unravel the complex links between biodiversity and food production systems within the region. The project is a showcase of Mediterranean collaboration in agricultural research and innovation, and has a direct relevance to new initiatives in research and innovation in the agricultural sector in the Mediterranean area. This ongoing research will characterise food production and land use systems, assess how agricultural and land systems are managed across the region and will include a case-study from Malta that identifies the characteristics of local farm systems. Through participatory processes with farmers, policymakers and other stakeholders, it will develop an understanding of how the sector can react to global drivers of change whilst ensuring long-term sustainability.

The project is funded through the Arimnet 2 programme, within which Malta is represented by the Malta Council for Science and Technology. Mcast’s Applied Environmental Sciences Research Group is the participating partner in Divercrop. The research group works with practitioners in environmental sciences that have broad industry experience and provides a platform for students to do research in various environmental fields.

For further information about Divercrop and the associated research activities of Mcast’s Applied Environmental Sciences Research Group e-mail

Mario Balzan is the Divercrop project’s principal investigator and a senior lecturer at Mcast’s Institute of Applied Sciences. Laura Scalvenzi is an Mcast research assistant.


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