Ecological targeting toolkit. WP 2.3: ecological recovery fieldwork report

Webb, Gearoid; Scarlett, Peter; Vincent, Helen; Edwards, Francois. 2015 Ecological targeting toolkit. WP 2.3: ecological recovery fieldwork report. Wallingford, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, 72pp. (CEH project no: C04658) (Unpublished)

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Agricultural land is a major source of diffuse nutrient and sediment pollution in UK rivers (Davies et al., 2009, Poole et al., 2013). The management of the agri-environment is a complex process supported by UK and EU legislation. The EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) provides funding streams to enable national environmental stewardships (ES) programmes, or ‘agri-environment schemes’ that provide financial incentives to farmers and land managers to farm in a way that supports biodiversity and improves the quality of soils and water. Currently 70% of farmland in England is covered by environmental stewardship schemes, the current incarnation of which is ‘Countryside Stewardship’ (Defra, 2015). Water quality is an important part of such schemes, indeed they provide funding for a range of management options to reduce diffuse water pollution, principally related to the application of nutrients, soil tilling and the establishment of buffers and fencing around waterbodies. In England, these measures are further supported by the Catchment Sensitive Farming project (CSF) which provides free training and advice to farmers to improve the environmental performance of the farms and reduce diffuse water pollution in priority catchments (Natural England, 2014). The ‘catchment based approach’ has emerged in recent years as catchment scale collaborations between stakeholders to deliver improvements to the water environment beyond those of ES schemes. Though the measures provided by ES schemes are essentially best practice measures, it is still necessary, in view of the financial investment, to determine their efficacy. However, across the EU, studies that test the success of ES schemes are uncommon, and are usually inadequate to assess reliably the efficiency of the scheme (confounding factors include biased site selection, inadequate controls, weak before/after information, lack of replication and no baseline data, confounding effects of multiple measures) (Kleijn & Sutherland, 2003). To fill this gap in knowledge, demonstration test catchments (DTC’s) were set up in England as research platforms where the implementation of multiple on-farm measures for diffuse water pollution can be tested against an ecological baseline. Cost effectiveness of measures is an important aspect of DTC research, and the time-scale over which effects of measures may be detected is an important aspect. The response time of ecological elements to measure implementation is not well understood yet they represent an important endpoint for compliance with the WFD. To be able to demonstrate improvements in ecological quality, it is important to know how much monitoring is required pre and post change. However, available resources rarely allow for sites to be monitored intensively for long periods. Thus short term monitoring may prove informative if delivered within a framework that provides a strong power to detect change. This study examines change driven by agri-environment schemes over a short time scale, in line with the resources that were available. A before-after-control-impact (BACI) survey design was used and multiple ecological endpoints were monitored to increase our power of detection. We aimed to demonstrate whether ecological change on a short time scale could be unequivocally linked to mitigation measures despite natural seasonal and inter-annual variability.

Item Type: Publication - Report
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Acreman
Funders/Sponsors: Defra
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 28 Feb 2017 11:46 +0 (UTC)

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