Biodiversity or ‘biological diversity’ generally refers to the variety and variability of all living things.
Biodiversity in the vineyard reflects the natural balance of the vineyard environment and its interactions with the fauna (animal life) and flora (plant life) in it.
An established ecosystem contains a community of living things in balance with each other and their environment. The more numerous and genetically diverse these interactions are, the higher the biodiversity and the better buffered and more sustainable a system will be. For example, if a particular species declines due to changing weather conditions, then other species may be available to carry on with essential ecosystem functions.
Monocultures such as those that occur often in agriculture (including vineyards) can be more susceptible to falling out of balance. If one or more species dominates a system, they may disrupt the inter-relationships that would normally occur; or if a key beneficial species is removed, this may allow another undesirable species to dominate. The system is also more vulnerable to changes such as fluctuating weather conditions.
The integration of biodiversity and production should therefore focus on restoration or maintenance of native species and plant communities that support the ecosystem processes that ensure both long‐term landscape viability and long‐term horticultural production.
Soil biodiversity in a vineyard can be improved by planting cover crops or native plants in the mid-rows or using mulches in the vine rows.
Minimising mechanical cultivation can also help reduce soil compaction, thereby improving soil drainage and aeration allowing water infiltration and biological activity. Regular soil quality monitoring can help grapegrowers assess the health status of their vineyard soils and help manage this resource into the future.
Monitoring pests and disease as well as soil health and plant nutrition all play important roles in best management practices for vineyard biodiversity. Use of sprays to control pests and diseases has a clear influence on biodiversity, as non-target species are impacted. Use of low input, organic and/or biodynamic farming practices can enhance biodiversity, as chemical use is avoided and the emphasis is on the use of composts and manures, with a more integrated approach to animal, crop and soil management.
Biodiversity can be achieved simply in and around the vineyard by incorporating a range of plants in the mid-row area, headlands, borders and in the surrounding landscape.