Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Birds fly in the face of green farming incentive scheme

16.10.2001


The Dutch government pays farmers to mow late and use less fertiliser.
© D. Kleijn


Conservation initiatives may leave birds less food.
© D. Kleijn


European subsidies to enhance farmland wildlife may not be working.

The effectiveness of schemes that seek to promote biodiversity by paying farmers to cut back on intensive agriculture could be called into question by some research findings from Holland.

The incentive programmes, which already cost the European Union 1.7 billion euros (US$1.5 billion) each year and are rapidly expanding in scope, are partly motivated by the desire of European governments to subsidize farming without promoting the overproduction of food. But the programmes have been publicly justified by claims that they will help to restore ecological biodiversity on farmland.



In this issue of Nature, David Kleijn and colleagues at Wageningen University report results from one of the first schemes of this kind, operated by the Dutch government since 1981. They find that it has failed to significantly increase biodiversity in fields where farmers were paid to delay mowing or grazing, and to reduce the amount of fertilizer they used1.

The study did not examine how the total biodiversity in the region had changed over time, however. And EU officials and some conservationists are confident that the more sophisticated programmes now being implemented will yield increase biodiversity.

But many ecologists claim that such programmes have not been properly evaluated. "There are far too few studies of this kind," says population biologist Arie van Noordwijk of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology’s Centre for Terrestrial Ecology in Heteren. "We have hardly any good data on the effectiveness of these programmes, and vast amounts of money are spent on them Europe-wide."

Kleijn’s study counted species and numbers of plants, birds, bees and hoverflies in 78 fields last summer. Only bee and hoverfly diversity increased under the scheme. Birds actually seemed to prefer intensively farmed fields, possibly because reductions in fertilizer use lead to smaller invertebrate populations and so less food.

Kleijn thinks the study area is representative of intensively managed farmland across northern Europe, but admits that the effectiveness of such schemes in hill-farm regions, for example, may be quite different.

According to Carlos Martin-Novella, an official at the European Commission’s Development and Environment Unit in Brussels, the European Union has already adjusted its subsidy schemes to increase their effectiveness, and made arrangements to monitor them. For example, the commission’s biodiversity action plan, published earlier this year, requires member states to evaluate their agri-environment schemes. The new research "fits very well into this commitment", says Martin-Novella.

David Gibbons, head of conservation science at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a British conservation group, says that recent environmental subsidy schemes are designed with more scientific input than the Dutch study. Britain’s Arable Stewardship project, for example, which aims to restore farmland bird populations, expressly targets individual species. It will require farmers to leave stubble — an important food source for birds — in fields over the winter, instead of digging it up to plant crops such as winter wheat. The scheme is to be launched in 2002 after a three-year pilot study. "I’d be shocked if we don’t see real benefits over the next 5–10 years," says Gibbons.

References
  1. Kleijn, D., Berendse, F. Smit, R. & Niels, G. Agri-environment schemes do not effectively protect biodiversity in Dutch agricultural landscapes. Nature 413, 723–725 (2001).


JOHN WHITFIELD | Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/011018/011018-6.html
http://www.nature.com/nsu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>