Nature's Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation and Food Sovereignty, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Nature's Matrix

Linking Agriculture, Conservation and Food Sovereignty, 1st Edition

By Ivette Perfecto, John Vandermeer, Angus Wright


256 pages

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Landscapes are frequently seen as fragments of natural habitat surrounded by a 'sea' of agriculture. But recent ecological theory shows that the nature of these fragments is not nearly as important for conservation as is the nature of the matrix of agriculture that surrounds them. Local extinctions from conservation fragments are inevitable and must be balanced by migrations if massive extinction is to be avoided. High migration rates only occur in what the authors refer to as 'high quality' matrices, which are created by alternative agroecological techniques, as opposed to the industrial monocultural model of agriculture. The authors argue that the only way to promote such high quality matrices is to work with rural social movements. Their ideas are at odds with the major trends of some of the large conservation organizations that emphasize targeted land purchases of protected areas. They argue that recent advances in ecological research make such a general approach anachronistic and call, rather, for solidarity with the small farmers around the world who are currently struggling to attain food sovereignty.

Nature's Matrix proposes a radically new approach to the conservation of biodiversity based on recent advances in the science of ecology plus political realities, particularly in the world's tropical regions.


'This well written book is informed by sophisticated ecological theory applied to the complexities of modern tropical development in a dazzling critique of conventional thinking.'Susanna Hecht, Professor of Urban Planning at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Fate of the Forest.

'Greens of every stripe – agro-ecologists, conservationists, regional planners – recognize the need for ecologically farmed areas, an empowered farm population, preserved areas in any sustainable, just and productive mosaic landscape. We all advocate this integration. This book does it.'Richard Levins, Professor of Population Sciences at Harvard University and author of The Dialectical Biologist and Biology Under the Influence.

'Nature's Matrix makes the powerful case that sustainable peasant agriculture is a positive force for biodiversity conservation, contrary to a lot of misrepresentation in the literature. It is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the connections between food sovereignty and the environment.'Peter Rosset, author of Food Is Different and Promised Land.

'As the authors demonstrate in this ground-breaking book, traditional agroecosystems not only offer promising models for other areas as they promote biodiversity, thrive without agrochemicals, and sustain year-round yields but are key for food sovereignty and the conservation of millions of wild species as they promote high quality matrices.'Miguel Altieri, Professor at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Agroecology: The Science of Sustainable Agriculture.

'An excellent book, highly recommended.'Agroforestry News.

'By providing analysis of how agriculture, conservation and biodiversity should be managed for the nutritional and social benefit of the majority, as well as the environmental security of the planet, Nature's Matrix offers policymakers, agronomists and ecologists much to ponder.'New Agriculturist.

'An important publication that should be read by all ecologists, because the arguments are backed up with a considerable quantity of data.'Janet Sprent, British Ecological Society, 2010.

'Hopefully books such as these will help the change from denial to holistic thinking.'IZWA.

'This book is an important read for conservationists who are invited to adopt a landscape matrix perspective and aim for better understanding of the socio-economic and political forces that influence land use'ORC Bulletin, Dec 2010.

Table of Contents

1. Matrix Matters: An Overview 2. The Ecological Argument 3. The Agricultural Matrix 4. The Broad Social Context for Understanding Biodiversity, Conservation and Agriculture 5. Coffee, Cacao and Food Crops: Case Studies of Agriculture and Biodiversity 6. The New Paradigm References Index

About the Authors

Ivette Perfecto is Professor of Natural Resources at the University of Michigan. John Vandermeer is Asa Gray University Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan. Angus Wright is Emeritus Professor of Environmental Studies at California State University Sacramento.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Biological Diversity