Updated: Jun 14
Taking unproductive land out of production and managing it for its biodiversity value.
There is a wealth of services that are provided by ecological habitats that are of benefit to the farm (for example, water regulation, supply and purification, pollination and biological control by organisms, nutrient cycling and soil erosion control) and the preservation of these habitats is vital for a sustainable future. It is also possible to improve farmland diversity by making best use of unproductive land. Using yield mapping, it is possible to determine areas on the farm that can be taken out of production (such as field margins and boundaries) and used to create wildlife habitats with biodiversity value.
These areas can be managed with minimal and appropriate use of fertiliser or plant protection products to allow native vegetation to set seed and for the conservation of native birds and animals.
Creating an effective Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)
The creation and implementation of a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) can be achieved by following five steps.
1. Carry out a baseline assessment: it is possible to either use a map of the region from a public source (satellite, Google, governmental institution etc.), or to draw a map that includes a short legend of what can be seen in the drawing. Note the detail as this can be used to assess the amount and condition of the hedgerows and position and flow of any water course. (Assess and record hedgerow condition - £3/100m – paid for both sides (i.e £6/100m) where the farmer has control of both sides of hedge. See hedgerow assesment guide.
Map all land used for agriculture
Map and describe the areas of high value for biodiversity (e.g. natural, semi-natural, protected areas on or around the farm)
Map and describe ecological structures on your farm (e.g. hedges, ponds, single trees etc.)
Map and describe endangered, endemic and characterisitc species on your farm
Map and describe agroecological measures already implemented on the farm (e.g. extensively used areas, bee hives, uncut grass strips, flower strips etc.)
2. Define goals for protection of biodiversity, creation of potential and reduction of negative impacts - measureable if possible. Choose appropriate measures and define a timetable for implementation (short term, midterm, long term).
3. Select and implement measures, such as:
Creation of ecological structures for biodiversity beyond those legally required for the farm. No treatment with pesticides and fertilisers
Flower rich grass margins, blocks or strips (£673/ha) SFI + AB8
Establish and maintain blocks or strips of winter bird food (£732/ha) SFI + AB9
Establish and maintain blocks or strips of pollen and nectar flower mix (£614/ha)
Establish and maintain grass field corners and blocks on arable land (£590/ha)
Take grassy field corners and blocks out of management (£333/ha)
Maintain improved grassland to provide winter bird food (£474/ha)
Buffer zones along ditches, streams, rivers, ponds etc. with native vegetation and a minimum 4 meters width. (4m-12m buffer strips on arable land - £451/ha, 4m-12m buffer strips on grassland - £235/ha)
Corridors to connect habitats inside the farm and – if possible – with habitats in the surroundings of the farm. Going forward, this may be covered as part of the local nature recovery that is now under the yet to be announced Countryside stewardship plus, also on a larger scale, the landscape recovery scheme.
Information about protected areas in the local area as well as endangered species that might live on your farm
Regular exchange and – even better - collaboration with relevant local organisations or other biodiversity experts
Measures for protected species based on the advice of experts, such as installation and maintenance of breeding places, creation or restoration of ponds, dry stone walls etc.
4. Identify practical and easy to collect indicators to monitor the implementation of the measures and their influence on biodiversity = potential created, and negative impacts reduced.
5. Adapt the implemented measures according to the monitoring results. If the desired effects occur, progress towards the implementation of additional measures to promote biodiversity can be made. If the desired effects do not occur, for comprehensible reasons, adjust the measure or substitute it with another one.
Throughout it is important to maintain the following records:
Baseline assessment (Map and description in form of a table)
Defined goals and measures
Evaluation of the results.
Upon evaluation of the results the cycle starts again. If negative impacts could not be avoided, you should aim to achieve no net loss and preferably, a net gain of biodiversity on the ground with respect to species composition, habitat structure and ecosystem function.
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In Plain English: Nature-based solutions, Jon Dearsley and Molly Biddell