Monitoring farmland biodiversity costs less than you think
How can we monitor Europe-wide farmland biodiversity so that it makes sense to farmers, is ecologically credible and still is affordable? An international team of researchers including the Chair of Organic Agriculture and Agronomy at Technische Universität München (TUM) provides an answer: A European farmland biodiversity monitoring scheme is feasible and requires only a modest share of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget.
As a first step the researchers from the EU funded project “Biodiversity Indicators for European Farming Systems (BioBio)” asked experienced European stakeholders from farmers associations, nature conservation organizations and public administration, which indicators provided best “value for money” for their purpose. From the answers the team derived a minimum set of necessary measurements offering information on habitats, plant species and farm management practices on the one hand and wild bees, earthworms and spiders as important providers of ecosystem services on the other hand.
The set of indicators was tested on 200 farms across 12 European case study regions. The results show: These few indicators complement each other so well that they are able to show considerable changes in farmland biodiversity. Additionally, costs could be quite low: When in the end the team evaluated cost estimates for nine implementation scenarios, they showed that the alternative monitoring schemes require 0.01% - 0.74% of the total CAP budget and 0.04% - 2.48% of the CAP budget specifically allocated to environmental targets. The researchers conclude that a continent-wide farmland biodiversity monitoring scheme would require only a modest share of the Common Agricultural Policy budget. Despite the simple and cheap methods, results from individual member countries could be integrated into a coherent European picture.
Sebastian Wolfrum from the Chair of Organic Agriculture and Agronomy at Technische Universität München, who managed the case study in Germany, explains: ”We collaborated in this project to improve the species and habitat diversity of Bavarian agroecosystems in the long run. Our aim is to evaluate the effectiveness of agri-environmental policies and, if necessary, adjust these measures to optimize the use of public subsidies. The results are very encouraging, it’s now up to the policy makers to make use of them.”
Geijzendorffer, I.R., Targetti, S., Schneider, M.K., Brus, D.J., Jeanneret, P., Jongman, R.H.G., Knotters, M., Viaggi, D., Angelova, S., Arndorfer, M., Bailey, D., Balázs, K., Báldi, A., Bogers, M.M.B., Bunce, R.G.H., Choisis, J.-P., Dennis, P., Eiter, S., Fjellstad, W., Friedel, J.K., Gomiero, T., Griffioen, A., Kainz, M., Kovács-Hostyánszki, A., Lüscher, G., Moreno, G., Nascimbene, J., Paoletti, M.G., Pointereau, P., Sarthou, J.-P., Siebrecht, N., Staritsky, I., Stoyanova, S., Wolfrum, S. & Herzog, F. (2015) How much would it cost to monitor farmland biodiversity in Europe? Journal of Applied Ecology.