How can we monitor Europe-wide farmland biodiversity so that it makes sense to farmers, is ecologically credible and still is affordable? Two new studies published in the Journal of Applied Ecology and the Journal of Environmental Management think it is possible. These studies were conducted by international groups of scientists including Alterra. Combining stakeholder priorities for biodiversity indicators with ecological significance, researchers find that a European farmland biodiversity monitoring scheme is feasible and requires only a modest share of the Common Agricultural Policy budget.
First, stakeholders were asked, which indicators provided best ‘value for money’ for their purpose. Habitat, plant species and farm management indicators ranked highest. Wild bees, earthworms and spiders as important providers of ecosystem services came next. Together they form a minimum set of indicators which provides non-redundant information and which can make dominant changes in farmland biodiversity visible.
Researchers from the FP7 funded EU projects ‘Biodiversity Indicators for European Farming Systems (BioBio)’ and ‘Building the European Biodiversity Observation Network (EU BON)’, then developed cost estimates for nine monitoring scenarios and the authors conclude that a continent-wide farmland biodiversity monitoring scheme would require only a modest share of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget 2014-2020.
Cost assessments showed that the farmland biodiversity monitoring scenarios require 0·01% - 0·74% of the total CAP budget and 0·04% - 2·48% of the CAP budget specifically allocated to environmental targets. With 30% of the CAP devoted to environmental targets (more than 120 billion Euro), investing in a monitoring process seems a logical choice given these results. The researchers provide a framework for individual countries to start farmland biodiversity monitoring, building towards a coherent European picture. They showed that the measurement tools convey useful information to different audiences including farmers and consumers, and that involving experts, citizens, and farmers in the data collection enhances considerably the efficiency of the monitoring programme.
“Despite scientific proof that monitoring increases the (cost) efficiency of policy measures, monitoring rarely gets included in policy programme budgets. We identified that the cost are not as high as feared. To further facilitate implementation, the study provides stepping stones to build a European monitoring scheme, offering a choice in indicators and using regions as a unit of trend analysis,” explains Ilse Geijzendorffer, former Alterra researcher (now IMBE, France), lead author of the Journal of Applied Ecology paper. Other Alterra researchers involved in this study are Dick Brus, Rob Jongman and Martin Knotters.
The studies were published in the Journal of Applied Ecology (Geijzendorffer et al) and the Journal of Environmental Management (Targetti et al.).