UK agri-environment schemes have high uptake, but some options need to be promoted to support farmland birds

  • Published source details Vickery J., Chamberlain D., Evans A., Ewing S., Boatman N. & Norris K. (2008) Predicting the impact of future agricultural change and uptake of Entry Level Stewardship on farmland birds. BTO Research Report No. 485. British Trust for Ornithology report.


Agri-environment schemes (AES) are a central tool in efforts to reduce biodiversity loss in the UK, with the Environmental Stewardship one of the major programmes. The Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) project aims to increase on-farm biodiversity and reverse the declines in farmland birds. This literature review investigated both the uptake of the scheme and the likely impact of bird populations.


Literature investigating the uptake and impact of ELS was reviewed and analysed in 2008, with the likely impacts of uptake rates on farmland birds modelled.


The amount of land entering the scheme was found to be meeting government targets, but that several classes of options were not being taken up at a high enough rate to maintain some farmland birds. The authors argue that ‘in-field’ options such as skylark plots, conservation headlands and stubbles (all are discussed in their own sections) need to be promoted, as do complex field-edge options such as ‘enhanced hedgerow management’.

The rate of ELS uptake in 2008 was only sufficient to promote population growth in two of 12 species studied, and close in another. Even with a 70% uptake rate, the scheme would not promote population growth in five species (northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus, European turtle dove Streptopelia turtur, yellow wagtail Motacilla flava, Eurasian linnet Carduelis cannabina and yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella). The authors warn, however, that their analysis may have under estimated the effectiveness of ELS.

Note: If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper.


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