Nature conservation in ecological focus areas – practical handbook and scientific support
Within the framework of the Common Agricultural Policy farms with more than 15ha arable land must manage 5% of their area as an ecological focus area. How were these areas used previously? How valuable are they for nature protection?
Biodiversity in agricultural landscapes declines significantly. The recent reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union focuses on ecological aspects or on “greening”, respectively, of the first pillar (direct payments to farmers). Since 2015, farmers have to provide ecological focus areas (EFA). Farms with more than 15ha arable land have to declare 5% of this area as EFA. For national implementation, Germany could select from an extensive list of different EFA types. Some of them allow an agricultural usage (e.g., short rotation coppice, catch crops) and some do not (e.g., fallow land, landscape elements).
Currently, there is a controversial discussion on the ecological effectiveness of EFA. It is also disputed if the high administration and monitoring effort of these measures is proportionate. The European Commission will present an evaluation report in 2017 revealing in how far EFA and their arrangement are valuable for the conservation of biological diversity as well as the protection of water, climate and soil. Based on this report, possible changes from 2018 onwards should be decided.
Within the framework of our project we will evaluate how effective ecological focus areas are for nature protection in the German agricultural landscape and give practical recommendations. The results should also be used as suggestions for modifying the framework conditions in the course of the evaluation of the CAP reform in 2017.
Ministries of agriculture and environment, farmers, consultants, official nature conservation, agricultural administration, European Commission
In a first step we collect and evaluate already existing knowledge on the ecological quality of EFA and on the implementation in other European countries. In addition, we analyze legal and funding policy backgrounds.
Furthermore, plot-specific field studies as well as interviews with farmers are foreseen in four different arable farming regions in Germany to evaluate the ecological meaning of EFA under different site conditions. We will then develop a monitoring system for greening effects.
Based on the administrative data of the federal states it can be determined which EFA types are declared and on which environmental and operational conditions this choice depends. Further, we want to clarify to what extent already existing landscape structures are integrated and new ones created.
The analysis of literature, studies and projects together with plot-specific field studies on flora and fauna, farmer interviews in different regions as well as the analysis of statistical data on EFA choice and declaration give us a comprehensive understanding of how EFA are implemented and how effective they are for nature protection. Based on this knowledge we can derive recommendations for policy and practice aiming at the most favorable relation of environmental benefits and costs.
How do farmers implement the new EFA regulations and what influences their decision?
What role do consultation and interactions with other instruments (agri-environmental and contract-based nature conservation measures, legal requirements) play?
What is the additional conservation value of the EFA implemented under the current conditions?
Which monitoring approaches are suitable for evaluating the nature protection quality of EFA?
What experiences are there in terms of administrational expenses and legal certainty?
How could the benefit of EFA be enhanced?
How can economically favorable options for farmers look in terms of creating benefits for nature protection at the same time?
The project should show how, besides political guidelines, operation- and region-specific factors influence the choice and implementation of EFA and their ecological effectiveness.
4.2015 - 12.2016
Project funding number: FKZ 3514824100
Funding program: BMUB - Umweltforschungsplan
Project status: ongoing