BESS Fellowship: Supporting ecosystem services on commercial farms - using evidence to inform land management decisions
Dr Lynn Dicks, Conservation Science Group, University of Cambridge, now University of East Anglia
This research aimed to recommend how commercial farms in the UK can be managed to support biodiversity and ecosystem services without compromising on yield or profit. The research used three different approaches. One was to identify management actions with potential to simultaneously increase farm output and competitiveness, whilst protecting the countryside and enhancing the environment. Lynn has worked in collaboration with the Defra Sustainable Intensification Platform to identify 18 priority actions for UK farms, and with the Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation in Bangor to begin assessing evidence for the effectiveness of some of these actions.
The second approach developed specific advice on the use of agri-environment measures to support beneficial insects (those providing pest control and pollination services). Advice is based on what service-providing insects need from their environment to support their full life cycles. A key finding has been to estimate that providing 2% flower-rich habitat and 1km flowering hedgerow per 100 ha block of farmland can supply six dominant wild pollinator species with enough pollen to feed their larvae (at lowest estimates of pollen demand only). This work informed the new agri-environment schemes for England.
A third approach was to develop a generic scoring system for farms to rapidly assess their overall management of biodiversity. This is based on rigorous, unbiased assessment of evidence for the effectiveness of specific actions. It is being incorporated into a new biodiversity module for the Cool Farm Tool. Separate scores will be provided for different target groups, including two ecosystem service-providing groups – beneficial insects and soil fauna.