Action: Introduce agri-environment schemes
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- Three studies evaluated the effects of agri-environment schemes on bat populations. The three studies were in the UK.
COMMUNITY RESPONSE (0 STUDIES)
POPULATION RESPONSE (3 STUDIES)
- Abundance (3 studies): Two of three replicated, paired sites study in the UK found that total bat activity (relative abundance) and the activity of six bat species did not differ significantly between farms managed under agri-environment schemes and those managed conventionally. The other study found significantly lower overall bat activity and activity of pipistrelle species on agri-environment scheme farms than conventional farms.
BEHAVIOUR (0 STUDIES)
Agri-environment schemes provide farmers with financial incentives to manage their land in an environmentally friendly way. They promote the conservation of farmland, biodiversity and agro-ecosystems, and have been used in Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia.
Agri-environment schemes use many different specific interventions which may be beneficial to bats such as the protection and maintenance of archaeological features, traditional farm buildings and stone walls; the restoration and enhancement of key habitats such as woodland, wetlands and hedgerows; and improvements to air and water quality. Three studies that evaluated the overall effects of agri-environment schemes are discussed here. Relevant individual interventions are also discussed in this chapter. See also ‘Threat: Pollution – Agricultural and forestry effluents – Reduce pesticide, herbicide and fertiliser use’.
For more general interventions relating to protecting and conserving important habitats, see ‘Habitat protection’, ‘Habitat restoration and protection’ and ‘Threat: Pollution’.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A replicated, paired sites study in 2008 on 18 pairs of farms in Scotland, UK (Fuentes-Montemayor et al 2011) found that agri-environment scheme farms had lower overall bat activity and foraging activity than non-participating conventional farms. Overall bat activity and foraging activity were lower on agri-environment scheme farms (total 790 bat passes, 37 feeding buzzes) than conventional farms (total 1,175 bat passes, 85 feeding buzzes). The same was true for activity of the two most frequently recorded bat species: common pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus (agri-environment scheme farms: 159 bat passes; conventional farms: 312 bat passes) and soprano pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus (agri-environment scheme farms: 537 bat passes; conventional farms: 734 bat passes). Eighteen farms participating in the Scottish Rural Stewardship Scheme since 2004 were paired with nearby conventionally managed farms of a similar size and with similar farming activities. Each of 18 pairs of farms was sampled once on the same night in June–September 2008. Bat activity was recorded along transects (2.5–3.7 km long) from 45 minutes after sunset using bat detectors.
A replicated, site comparison study in 2008 of 18 paired pasture fields in Devon, UK (MacDonald et al 2012) found that fields under agri-environment scheme management had similar bat activity as fields under conventional management. There was no significant difference in the overall number of bat passes recorded over agri-environment scheme fields (average 3 passes/night) and conventionally managed fields (1 pass/night). Seven bat species were recorded in total (see original paper for data for individual species). Paired agri-environment scheme fields and conventionally managed fields were matched where possible by topography, size and landscape context. Agri-environment scheme fields were managed with no pesticide or fertiliser inputs. Conventionally managed fields had no management restrictions. Bat activity was recorded using bat detectors at each pair of fields for 1–2 full nights in May, July or August 2008.
A replicated, paired sites study in 2009–2011 of 40–60 pairs of farms in Wales, UK (MacDonald et al 2012) found that there was no significant difference in the activity of six bat species on agri-environment scheme farms and non-participating conventional farms. The average number of bat passes/year was similar on agri-environment scheme farms and conventional farms for common pipistrelles Pipistrellus pipistrellus (agri-environment scheme: 3–7, conventional: 4–6), soprano pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus (agri-environment scheme: 5–9, conventional: 5–8), common noctules Nyctalus noctula (agri-environment scheme: 0.2–3, conventional: 0.3–4), Daubenton’s bats Myotis daubentonii (agri-environment scheme: 16–27, conventional: 17–20), greater horseshoe bats Rhinolophus ferrumequinum (agri-environment scheme: 3, conventional: 4) and lesser horseshoe bats Rhinolophus hipposideros (agri-environment scheme: 5, conventional: 6). Pairs of agri-environment scheme and conventional farms were 2–20 km apart and matched by size, altitude, soil type, and farming system. Field transects were carried out at 60 pairs of farms, waterway transects at 40 pairs of farms, and static field surveys at 45 pairs of farms. Surveys were carried out once or twice/year between June and September in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
- Fuentes-Montemayor E., Goulson D. & Park K. (2011) Pipistrelle bats and their prey do not benefit from four widely applied agri-environment management prescriptions. Biological Conservation, 144, 2233-2246
- MacDonald M.A., Cobbold G., Mathews F., Denny M.J.H., Walker L.K., Grice P.V. & Anderson G.Q.A. (2012) Effects of agri-environment management for cirl buntings on other biodiversity. Biodiversity and Conservation, 21, 1477-1492
- MacDonald M.A., Morris A.J., Dodd S., Johnstone I., Beresford A., Angell R., Haysom K., Langton S., Tordoff G., Brereton T., Hobson R., Shellswell C., Hutchinson N., Dines T., Wilberforce E.M., Parry R. & Matthews V. (2012) Welsh Assembly Government Contract 183/2007/08 to Undertake Agri-environment Monitoring and Services. Lot 2 – Species Monitoring. Final report: October 2012.