The Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) is an industry-led initiative aiming to offset the loss of environmental benefits on farmland due to the abolition of set-aside. Voluntary activities are encouraged to benefit three key themes: farmland birds, other farm wildlife and resource protection. To date, monitoring has focussed on the achievement of area targets, but increasing importance is being placed on evaluating the environmental benefits provided by the Campaign towards its three themes. Direct measurement of environmental outcomes is difficult, so this proposal outlines an alternative approach based on the measurement of habitat condition to infer the environmental benefits provided by the measures implemented under the CFE. This research aims to develop, verify and use this methodology to provide evidence on the environmental outcomes of the CFE. The research will complement evidence collected as part of existing Campaign monitoring.A comprehensive literature review will be carried out to identify the key attributes of habitats and features likely to be most important in influencing the outcomes for the three themes. The list of attributes identified from the literature review will be circulated to a panel of experts for validation. Once the attributes have been agreed, scores will be allocated to each, and a workshop will be held to iron out any differences in opinion between experts and reach a final agreed set of scores.Farms participating and not participating in the CFE will be visited in late spring (April-June) to provide information for reporting in June 2012 (the formal end of the CFE) and further visits will occur in summer, autumn and winter, according to the measures present on each farm.
CFE voluntary measures, similar measures outside the CFE, and CFE-linked ELS options will be assessed. At the start of the first visit, farmers will be interviewed to collect details of management of the areas to be assessed. Condition scores will be calculated and compared for areas managed under the CFE, ELS and outside schemes. Scores will be scaled up to provide an indication of potential impacts at a national scale. Habitat provision will also be analysed at a farm scale to consider the balance of habitat/feature provision in relation to the requirements for delivery under each theme. The evidence collected will be interpreted in the light of information from the initial evidence review to provide a holistic assessment of the likely contribution of the CFE to the achievement of stable populations of farmland birds and wider biodiversity and established standards for resource protection, within the wider context of agri-environment scheme activities and other forms of environmentally beneficial management.
Reports will also consider the value and limitations of the methodology and its potential for future use as a tool to assess environmental impacts of similar initiatives. As well as providing information for Campaign partners to aid in evaluating the outcomes of the CFE, it is anticipated that the results will contribute to the review of the Natural Environment White Paper and discussions in Europe on the future of the CAP.