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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Agri-environment schemes in the UK maintain, but don’t reliably improve, plant diversity in grasslands

Published source details

Critchley C., Burke M. & Stevens D. (2004) Conservation of lowland semi-natural grasslands in the UK: a review of botanical monitoring results from agri-environment schemes. Biological Conservation, 115, 263-278


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Pay farmers to cover the cost of conservation measures (as in agri-environment schemes) Farmland Conservation

A 2004 analysis of monitoring data (a replicated site comparison) in the UK (Critchley et al. 2004) concluded that agri-environment schemes maintain, but do not reliably improve, plant diversity in grasslands. In 22 of 38 datasets, no change was detected in the vegetation under agri-environment schemes. Nine showed some change towards the desired plant community, and seven showed further deterioration. Of 17 datasets that included non-agreement land for comparison, seven found agri-environment agreements were benefitting plant communities (deterioration or no change on non-agreement land contrasting with maintenance or restoration on agreement land). Two found more positive trends in plant communities outside agri-environment schemes than under them. In eight comparisons, there was no difference between agreement and non-agreement land. Thirty-eight sets of vegetation monitoring results were analysed. They included 188 specific agri-environment schemes aimed at maintaining, enhancing or restoring grasslands or grassland landscapes in the UK. These involved repeated monitoring over up to eight years, on between four and 400 locations/agri-environment scheme, using a range of sampling strategies.