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Quantifying the effects of Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) on biodiversity and ecosystem services at the farm scale. - BD5209

Description
Despite considerable investment in research and monitoring, there remains little evidence demonstrating the benefits of agri-environment schemes for farmland biodiversity across Europe. However, phase I of the Hillesden experiment (2005-2011) (MA01031) confirmed the limited value of the first tranche of Entry Level Stewardship Scheme (ELS) agreements in delivering habitats and resources for biodiversity due to the small number of low intervention management prescriptions implemented. In contrast, the diverse range of options implemented under the ELS extra treatment showed it is possible to significantly increase habitat quality and resources for farmland taxa based on a modest area of land taken out of production (5%). Moreover, there was evidence that the magnitude of resource enhancement was in many cases greater than the area removed from farming, and some habitats provided benefits for multiple taxa, such as birds and pollinators. These findings have informed recent initiatives to improve the delivery from the agri-environment schemes, such as Making Environmental Stewardship More Effective (MESME).

The end of the current ELS agreement provides an opportunity to revise the Hillesden experimental platform to reflect future changes to agri-environment scheme policy; namely the likely outcome of CAP reform post-2013 (the ‘greening of Pillar 1’ support payments) and the impact of initiatives to improve the delivery of ELS, such as MESME and Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE). In addition, the successful HLS application for the farm provides the scope to examine the effects of a practical combination of ELS and HLS options on delivery of biodiversity and ecosystem services for a large commercial arable farm.

During 2011/12 the Hillesden experimental design will be revised and reduced from five replicate blocks to four. This will provide greater buffering between plots and reduce the spill-over of treatment effects for mobile taxa, such as birds and pollinators. We will maintain continuity with Phase 1 of the experiment by continued monitoring of treatment effects on (i) habitat quality and food resources, and (ii) the population dynamics of key taxa, and additionally iii) ecosystem functions and associated services. Monitoring data from 2005-2011 will form a comprehensive baseline from which to monitor changes due to the revised ELS and additional HLS treatments.

To complement this long-term monitoring we will undertake detailed studies to understand and enhance the mechanisms by which management prescriptions affect habitat quality, the population dynamics of key taxa and ecosystem services. This will include: i) a detailed investigation of the effectiveness of supplementary winter feeding to overcome the ‘hungry gap’ in food resources on farmland bird populations; ii) a study of the carbon storage potential of arable ELS/HLS options after 5 years; and iii) an examination of the effects of enhancing pollinator abundance and diversity on crop pollination services. Finally, we will continue to use the experiment to promote knowledge transfer between researchers and practitioners (farmers, advisors, scientists, scheme administrators) through training days and workshops.
Objective
1) Quantify the effects on farmland biodiversity of: i) the farmland bird package of ELS prescriptions (comprising 6% land out of production) and ii) targeted HLS (11% out of production); and compare these with iii) cross-compliance (0% out of production);
2) Make comparable measures of biodiversity on four paired farms in typical ELS (0-1% out of production) situated within a 10 km radius;
3) Undertake detailed studies to understand and enhance the mechanisms by which ELS and HLS management prescriptions affect habitat quality and the population dynamics of key taxa, and ecosystem services;
4) Use the experiment to promote knowledge transfer between researchers and practitioners (farmers, advisors, scientists, scheme administrators) through training days and workshops.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2012

To: 2017

Cost: £762,866
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Centre For Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)
Keywords
Biodiversity              
Ecosystem Service              
Entry Levy Scheme (ELS)              
Environmental Impact              
Environmental Stewardship              
Higher Level Scheme