Optimizing the biodiversity gain from agri-environment schemes
Merckx T., Feber RE., Riordan P., Townsend MC., Bourn NAD., Parsons MS., Macdonald DW.
How best to optimize the biodiversity gain from agri-environment schemes (AES) has recently been identified as a key policy-relevant question. Here, the effects of two features of lowland agricultural landscapes on the abundance and diversity of larger moths are contrasted. Although both features bring about positive effects, hedgerow trees have a larger impact than 6 m wide grassy field margins. Whilst AES payments are given to create and maintain grass margins, no financial reward is currently offered for the retention of hedgerow trees. Furthermore, it was only in areas where the amount of land under AES was experimentally increased, by targeting farmers, that the presence of hedgerow trees resulted in a substantially higher abundance (+60%) and diversity (+38%) of moths. Thus, by using larger moths as bio-indicators of landscape-scale quality, it is demonstrated that improvements to the cost-effectiveness of AES could be achieved, firstly, by providing more appropriate financial rewards to farmers for different landscape features, and secondly, through landscape-scale targeting of farmers to encourage participation in AES. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.