Work package 3

Mitigation of biodiversity loss and promotion of ecosystem services

WP leader – University of Reading (UK), Simon Potts.

Many potentially effective management options will not be part of contemporary forms of agriculture and are therefore not being examined in WP2. WP3 therefore uses an experimental approach to quantify the impact of different promising mitigation measures for enhancing ecosystem services. The types of measures being studied include novel options that are relevant to the on-going reform of the Common Agricultural Policy; they either feature as agri-environmental measures or as compulsory measures that are part of cross-compliance. The impact of mitigating biodiversity loss on ecosystem services will be explored where different management approaches are examined in different countries as stand-alone experiments, with experiments conducted, where feasible, in parallel in one country dominated by high intensity agricultural systems and one country dominated by low intensity agricultural systems; we acknowledge that most countries have a range of intensities but selecting the representative level of intensity will allow contrasts to be drawn.


Photo by Ivo Laros: Empty Farmers Field
Within each country a high level of replication will be used to determine the mechanistic basis by which particular management practices affect functional biodiversity and how this is translated into the delivery of ecosystem, services. The general approach in terms of data collection will be similar in all experiments, using the same basic methods as in WP2, and produce data suitable to be used as inputs into the modelling approach of WP4.

To properly assess the complex interactions between ecosystem services provided by on- and off-field mitigation, each WP3 experiment addressing a different management approach will do so using a common set of methodologies and will deliver datasets for the same suite of services. This way comparisons between studies can be made. Further, wherever possible the levels of services recorded (above- or below-ground or on- or off-field) will be standardised per unit area.

To make sure project properly connects to the needs and perceptions of the farming community, prior to the start of the project we will organize stakeholder workshops to check that the details of the types of novel management practices we propose testing are compatible with real world farming methods. We will use this opportunity to find out about farmers’ understanding about ecosystem services, and what evidence or information they would find useful to inform future management decisions and also to check that our recommendations for new practices are validated as practically achievable.

Objectives

  1. Assessing the effectiveness of on-field management practices for promoting ecosystem services. Three management approaches will be explored: (a) cover crops; (b) mixed cropping; and (c) crop rotation.
  2. Assessing the effectiveness of off-field management practices for promoting ecosystem services. This objective will address both existing landscape elements and also newly created elements: (a) The quality of existing semi-natural landscape elements (e.g. tree diversity, nectar resources, tree structural heterogeneity, management history; (b) The creation of new semi-natural habitats in a framework of ecological set-aside.
  3. Characterise the effects of combinations of on- and off-field mitigation options on ecosystem services.