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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Agri-environment schemes have mixed benefits for plants, birds and some arthropod groups in England, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland

Published source details

Kleijn D., Baquero R.A., Clough Y., Diaz M., De Esteban J., Fernandez F., Gabriel D., Herzog F., Holzschuh A., Johl R., Knop E., Kruess A., Marshall E.J.P., Steffan-Dewenter I., Tscharntke T., Verhulst J., West T.M. & Yela J.L. (2006) Mixed biodiversity benefits of agri-environment schemes in five European countries. Ecology Letters, 9, 243-254


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Provide grass strips at field margins for bees Bee Conservation

A replicated, controlled trial of the 6 m wide grassy field margin agri-environment scheme option at 21 sites in England found no difference in the diversity of wild bees (sampled in the field boundary by walked transect and sweep netting) between paired control fields and fields with sown grassy margins (Kleijn et al. 2006).

Make direct payments per clutch for farmland birds Farmland Conservation

A replicated site comparison study of 42 fields in the Netherlands (Kleijn et al. 2006) found that more birds bred on 12.5 ha scheme plots consisting of a mixture of fields with postponed agricultural activities and fields with a per-clutch payment scheme than on conventionally farmed plots. A survey of individual fields found there was no difference in bird abundance and breeding on those fields with postponed agricultural activities only and on conventionally farmed fields. The number of bird species on each type of farmland also did not differ between agri-environment scheme and non-agri-environment scheme plots. The agri-environment scheme, which intended to promote the conservation of Dutch meadow birds, prohibited changes in field drainage, pesticide application (except for patch-wise control of problem weeds) and any agricultural activity between 1 April and early June. Additionally, farmers of surrounding fields were paid for each meadow bird clutch laid on their land (though no agricultural restrictions were in place on these fields). The study surveyed seven pairs of fields (one within the agri-environment scheme, one conventionally farmed) and the 12.5 ha area surrounding each field, from each of three different parts of the Netherlands four times during the breeding season.

 

Reduce management intensity on permanent grasslands for birds Bird Conservation

A 2006 replicated site comparison study of 42 fields in Switzerland (Kleijn et al. 2006) found that more birds, but not more bird breeding territories, were found in fields participating in the ecological compensation area scheme than in conventionally farmed fields. There was no difference in the numbers of bird species on each type of farmland. Ecological Compensation Areas are typically hay meadows farmed at low intensity: no fertilisers or pesticides (except for patch-wise control of problem weeds) are permitted, and vegetation must be cut and removed at least once a year - but not before 15 June (lowlands) or early July (mountains). The study surveyed seven pairs of fields (one within an Ecological Compensation Area, one conventionally farmed) and a 1-ha area surrounding each field, from each of three different parts of Switzerland four times during the breeding season.

 

Convert to organic farming Bee Conservation

A comparison of 21 organic and 21 conventional winter wheat fields in northern Germany found a greater abundance and diversity of wild bees on organic fields than on paired control fields (Kleijn et al. 2006, Holzschuh et al. 2007). Average bee species richness per field was 6.9 for organic fields and 2.1 species for conventional fields. 1,326 individuals of 31 bee species (average abundance 63.1) were recorded in organic fields compared to 181 individuals of 16 species (average abundance 8.6) in conventional fields.

Additional Reference

Holzschuh A., Steffan-Dewenter I., Kleijn D. & Tscharntke T. (2007) Diversity of flower-visiting bees in cereal fields: effects of farming system, landscape composition and regional context. Journal of Applied Ecology, 44, 41-49

Maintain traditional water meadows Bird Conservation

A 2006 replicated site comparison study of 42 fields in the Netherlands in 2006 (Kleijn et al. 2006) found that more birds bred on 12.5-ha scheme plots consisting of a mixture of fields with postponed agricultural activities and fields with a per-clutch payment scheme than on conventionally farmed plots. A survey of individual fields found there was no difference in bird abundance and breeding on those fields with postponed agricultural activities only and on conventionally farmed fields. The number of bird species on each type of farmland also didn’t differ between agri-environment schemes and non-agri-environment scheme plots. The agri-environment scheme, which intended to promote the conservation of Dutch meadow birds, prohibited changes in field drainage, pesticide application (except for patch-wise control of problem weeds) and any agricultural activity between 1 April and early June. Additionally, farmers of surrounding fields were paid for each meadow bird clutch laid on their land (though no agricultural restrictions were in place on these fields). The study surveyed seven pairs of fields (one within the agri-environment scheme, one conventionally farmed) and the 12.5-ha area surrounding each field, from each of three different parts of the Netherlands four times during the breeding season.

 

Introduce agri-environment schemes to benefit wild bees Bee Conservation

A replicated controlled trial of agri-environment schemes on 21 pairs of fields in each of five European countries carried out in 2003 found significantly greater abundance and diversity of wild bees on fields managed under agri-environment schemes than on control fields in Germany and Switzerland, but no significant difference in the Netherlands, England or Spain (Kleijn et al. 2006). The agri-environment management options that benefited bees in this study were organic arable farming in Germany and Ecological Compensation Areas in Switzerland. Those that did not were meadow bird agreements in wet grassland in the Netherlands (bees sampled with sweep nets and transect walks), measures to protect steppe-living birds and compensation measures around Caballeros National Park in Spain, and 6 m wide grass field margin strips in England.

Maintain traditional water meadows (includes management for breeding and/or wintering waders/waterfowl) Farmland Conservation

A replicated site comparison study of 42 fields in the Netherlands (Kleijn et al. 2006) found that more birds bred on 12.5 ha scheme plots consisting of a mixture of fields with postponed agricultural activities and fields with a per-clutch payment scheme than on conventionally farmed plots. A survey of individual fields found there was no difference in bird abundance and breeding on those fields with postponed agricultural activities only and on conventionally farmed fields. The number of bird species on each type of farmland also did not differ between agri-environment scheme and non-agri-environment scheme plots. The agri-environment scheme, which intended to promote the conservation of Dutch meadow birds, prohibited changes in field drainage, pesticide application (except for patch-wise control of problem weeds) and any agricultural activity between 1 April and early June. Additionally, farmers of surrounding fields were paid for each meadow bird clutch laid on their land (though no agricultural restrictions were in place on these fields). The study surveyed seven pairs of fields (one within the agri-environment scheme, one conventionally farmed) and the 12.5 ha area surrounding each field, from each of three different parts of the Netherlands four times during the breeding season.

 

Plant grass buffer strips/margins around arable or pasture fields for birds Bird Conservation

A 2006 replicated site comparison study of 42 fields in the UK (Kleijn et al. 2006) found that installing 6 m-wide grass field margin strips along arable fields had no effect on the number of birds or bird species found to breed or forage on farmland. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, these 6-m-wide grass field margin strips were grown through natural regeneration, the sowing of grass, or grass/forbs mixture. Pesticides applications were prohibited – except for the patch-wise control of problem weeds. The margin, which could not be used for regular access by farm vehicles, may havebe mown once a year after mid July, and dense cuttings must be removed. The study surveyed seven pairs of fields (one with field margins managed under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, one conventionally farmed) and the 12.5 ha area surrounding each field, from three different regions of the UK four times during the breeding season.

 

Pay farmers to cover the costs of bird conservation measures Bird Conservation

A 2006 replicated site comparison study in Spain and the Netherlands (Kleijn et al. 2006) found that birds bred more often, or were more numerous in areas participating in two agri-environment schemes, than on conventionally-farmed fields. In Spain, birds bred more often, and rare species bred and foraged more often in areas under a scheme designed to promote the conservation of steppe-associated birds than on paired sites without the scheme. In the Netherlands, more birds bred on 12.5 ha plots consisting of a mixture of fields with postponed agricultural activities and fields with a per-clutch payment scheme. However, the number of bird species on each type of farmland also did not differ between agri-environment schemes and non- agri-environment scheme plots, and there was no difference in bird abundance and breeding on those fields with only postponed agricultural activities compared with conventionally farmed fields. In Spain, the agri-environment scheme included limits on annual fertiliser and pesticide application; a month of restricted agricultural activity between April and July; mandatory unploughed strips covering three percent of fields; ploughing restrictions and a ban on burning fallow vegetation. In the Netherlands, the scheme prohibited changes in field drainage, pesticide application (except for patch-wise control of problem weeds) and any agricultural activity between 1 April and early June. Additionally, farmers of surrounding fields were paid for each meadow bird clutch laid on their land (though no agricultural restrictions were in place on these fields). In both countries, seven pairs of fields were surveyed in three parts of the country, four times over the breeding season.

Reduce management intensity on permanent grasslands (several interventions at once) Farmland Conservation

A replicated site comparison study of 42 fields in Switzerland (Kleijn et al. 2006) (same study as (Knop et al. 2006)) found that a number of wildlife groups benefited from fields participating in the Ecological Compensation Area scheme. There were more birds, but not more bird breeding territories in fields participating in the Ecological Compensation Area scheme than in conventionally farmed fields. There was no difference in the number of bird species on each type of farmland. There were also more uncommon species of arthropod (not endangered), significantly more bee (Apidae) and plant species and a greater density of uncommon plant species on Ecological Compensation Area grasslands than conventionally managed grassland. Ecological Compensation Areas are typically hay meadows farmed at low intensity: no fertilizers or pesticides (except for patch-wise control of problem weeds) are permitted, and vegetation must be cut and removed at least once a year - but not before 15 June (lowlands) or early July (mountains). The study surveyed seven pairs of fields (one within an Ecological Compensation Area, one conventionally farmed) from each of three different parts of Switzerland. Diversity and abundance of vascular plants, arthropods and birds were measured using standard sampling methods in late spring and summer 2003. Surveys of observed and territory-holding birds were made at the field scale and at the 1 ha plot scale.

 

Plant grass buffer strips/margins around arable or pasture fields Farmland Conservation

A replicated paired site-comparison study in 2006 in the UK (Kleijn et al. 2006) found that installing 6 m-wide grass field margin strips along arable fields had no effect on the number of birds or bird species found to breed or forage on farmland. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, these 6 m-wide grass field margin strips were either created through natural regeneration, sowing grass species, or sowing a grass/wildflower mixture. The study surveyed seven pairs of fields (one with field margins managed under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, one conventionally farmed) and the 12.5 ha area surrounding each field, from each of three different parts of the UK four times during the breeding season.