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 Treatment of saline wastewater during algae utilization
14.05.2019 | Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH

nachricht Plastic gets a do-over: Breakthrough discovery recycles plastic from the inside out
07.05.2019 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

Im Focus: A step towards probabilistic computing

Working group led by physicist Professor Ulrich Nowak at the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with a team of physicists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, demonstrates how skyrmions can be used for the computer concepts of the future

When it comes to performing a calculation destined to arrive at an exact result, humans are hopelessly inferior to the computer. In other areas, humans are...

Im Focus: Recording embryonic development

Scientists develop a molecular recording tool that enables in vivo lineage tracing of embryonic cells

The beginning of new life starts with a fascinating process: A single cell gives rise to progenitor cells that eventually differentiate into the three germ...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

A simple, yet versatile, new design for chaotic oscillating circuitry inspired by prime numbers

22.05.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Synthesis of helical ladder polymers

21.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

Ultra-thin superlattices from gold nanoparticles for nanophotonics

21.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>