Study

No evidence of benefits to plants or ground beetles (Carabidae) after at least four yars of the Irish Rural Environment Protection Scheme; a sixty-farm study in three counties of Ireland

  • Published source details Feehan J., Gillmor D. & Culleton N. (2005) Effects of an agri-environment scheme on farmland biodiversity in Ireland. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 107, 275-286

Actions

This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Provide buffer strips alongside water courses (rivers and streams)

Action Link
Farmland Conservation

Exclude livestock from semi-natural habitat (including woodland)

Action Link
Farmland Conservation

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

Action Link
Farmland Conservation

Create uncultivated margins around intensive arable or pasture fields

Action Link
Farmland Conservation

Reduce fertilizer, pesticide or herbicide use generally

Action Link
Farmland Conservation
  1. Provide buffer strips alongside water courses (rivers and streams)

    A replicated paired sites comparison study in 2000 in counties Laois and Offaly, Ireland (Feehan et al. 2005) (same study as Feehan et al. 2002) found that fenced watercourse margins on Rural Environment Protection Scheme farms did not have higher numbers of plant species than unfenced watercourse margins on non-Rural Environment Protection Scheme farms (14.7 and 16.1 plant species/margin respectively). Fifteen farms with Rural Environment Protection Scheme agreements at least four years old were paired with 15 similar farms without agreements. On each farm, a randomly selected watercourse margin was surveyed for plants: all plant species were recorded in two 5 x 3 m quadrats, and percentage cover estimated in a 1 x 3 m quadrat within each margin. Eleven of the farm pairs enabled a fenced/unfenced comparison.

  2. Exclude livestock from semi-natural habitat (including woodland)

    A replicated paired sites comparison study in 2000 in counties Laois and Offaly, Ireland (Feehan et al. 2005) (same study as (Feehan et al. 2002)) found that fenced watercourse margins on Rural Environment Protection Scheme farms did not have higher numbers of plant species than unfenced watercourse margins on non-Rural Environment Protection Scheme farms (14.7 and 16.1 plant species/margin respectively). Fifteen farms with Rural Environment Protection Scheme agreements at least four years old were paired with 15 similar farms without agreements. On each farm, a randomly selected watercourse margin was surveyed for plants: all plant species were recorded in two 5 x 3 m quadrats, and percentage cover estimated in a 1 x 3 m quadrat within each margin. Eleven of the farm pairs enabled a fenced/unfenced comparison.

     

     

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

    A replicated paired sites comparison study in 1999 and 2000 on 60 farms in three counties of Ireland (Feehan et al. 2005) found no consistent difference between Rural Environment Protection Scheme and non-Rural Environment Protection Scheme farms in plant or ground beetle (Carabidae) diversity or abundance. Non-Rural Environment Protection Scheme farms had the greatest range in species richness, and included farms with the lowest and highest numbers of plant species (23 and 50 plant species, respectively) and ground beetle species (12 and 30 ground beetle species). There were more plant species on grassland field margins on non-Rural Environment Protection Scheme farms (average 14.2 species/margin) than on Rural Environment Protection Scheme farms (12.5 species/margin). Sixty farms with Rural Environment Protection Scheme agreements at least four years old were paired with sixty similar farms without agreements. The farm pairs were in three Irish counties: Laois and Offaly (largely cattle farms with pasture) and Wexford (largely mixed arable farming). On each farm, two randomly selected hedges, the adjacent field margin and one watercourse margin were surveyed for plants and ground beetles. In each field margin and watercourse margin, all plant species were recorded in two 5 x 3 m quadrats, and percentage cover estimated in a 1 x 3 m quadrat. All plant species in a 30 m stretch of hedge were recorded. Ground beetles were sampled in four pitfall traps/field margin (eight traps/farm), set at 10 m intervals in early June and late August.

     

  4. Create uncultivated margins around intensive arable or pasture fields

    A replicated, paired site comparison study in 2000 in Ireland (Feehan et al. 2005) found that wider, uncultivated margins (average 181 cm wide) with reduced agrochemical inputs on Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) farms did not have higher plant or ground beetle (Carabidae) diversity or abundance than margins on non-Rural Environment Protection Scheme farms (average 145 cm). There were around 11 plant species and 21-22 ground beetle species/margin on both types of farm. Fourteen arable farms with Rural Environment Protection Scheme agreements at least four years old were paired with fourteen similar farms without agreements. On each farm, two randomly selected field margins were surveyed for plants and ground beetles.

  5. Reduce fertilizer, pesticide or herbicide use generally

    A replicated paired sites comparison study in 2000 on 28 arable farms in County Wexford, Ireland (Feehan et al. 2005) found that wider uncultivated margins (average 181 cm-wide) with reduced agrochemical inputs (fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide) on Rural Environment Protection Scheme farms did not have higher plant or ground beetle (Carabidae) diversity or abundance than margins on non-Rural Environment Protection Scheme farms (average 145 cm). There were around 11 plant species and 21-22 ground beetle species/margin on both types of farm. Fourteen farms with REPS agreements at least four years old were paired with fourteen similar farms without agreements. On each farm, two randomly selected field margins were surveyed for plants and ground beetles. In each margin, all plant species were recorded in two 5 x 3 m quadrats, and percentage cover estimated in a 1 x 3 m quadrat. Ground beetles were sampled in four pitfall traps/field margin (8 traps/farm), set at 10 m intervals in early June and late August.

     

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