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This was further confirmed in a meta-analysis on pollinators Scheper et al. However, the suggested relationship between effectiveness and land-use intensity has not been confirmed, possibly because most research has been done in countries dominated by intensive farming, such as the United Kingdom and Germany Dicks et al.

We imposed the following restrictions: only studies from the 28 European Member States, Norway, and Switzerland were included; studies were excluded if the number of replicates was fewer than three experimental or control areas; studies performed at plot level i. This resulted in a data set with observations from studies the entire data set is in Supporting Information.

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Effect size was positive if species richness was higher in the AES than in the control fields. Funnel plots, regressions test for funnel plot asymmetry, and calculated fail-safe numbers all showed no sign of publication bias, either in the entire data set or in the 2 meta-analyses presented Supporting Information. However, our meta-analyses shared with the three previous meta-analyses a strong geographic bias of study areas towards Northern and Western Europe.

This issue was previously highlighted by Tryjanowski et al. In the extensively farmed areas in the new member states such AES seem to be ineffective or even have negative effects on biodiversity. Therefore, there is a great need for better locally adapted AES. The regular reforms of CAP allow countries to use novel scientific insights and modify their agri-environmental programs to increase their efficiency. As a result national agri-environmental programs change substantially every 7 years. Dicks et al. After 25 years of AES in Europe and almost 15 years of high-quality research on their effectiveness, it is possible to ask whether the effectiveness of the schemes has improved as policy experience and scientific evidence accrued over time.

If evidence was being taken into account, findings from studies in the early s, which mostly covered AES implemented in the — budget period or before, would be reflected in the designs of schemes in the — budget periods. This may be expected to result in increased effectiveness in the second budget period. To test this, we used a mixed-effects meta-regression model in which budget period was the moderator variable Supporting Information.

We found that schemes implemented after were not more effective than schemes implemented before Fig. Although AES were effective in both periods, there was no sign of improvement in effectiveness over time. The mean effect size is significantly different from zero if the CIs do not overlap with zero. Numbers near symbols indicate sample size. Of course, we cannot conclude directly from this that science is not being used to improve design of the schemes. There are other possible explanations for the lack of improvement over time. We know that biodiversity is still degrading and agricultural landscapes are still changing in Europe, and both of these could potentially decrease the effectiveness of AES as a result of the reduced pool of species available to colonize and benefit from the scheme.

Alternatively, there might be a time-delay effect, meaning that the positive effect of research on AES will appear farther in the future Weis It is unfortunate that there is no evidence yet of AES becoming more effective over time, as such a change might have compensated to some extent for forthcoming reductions in AES budgets Pe'er et al. However, recent analyses of the compulsory greening measures show that effective elements of AES have generally not been incorporated Dicks et al.

AES can be classified according to whether they apply to non-productive areas, such as field boundaries and wildflower strips sometimes called off-field practices [Garibaldi et al. Schemes targeting non-productive areas include hedgerows, sown or naturally regenerated field margins, or simply taking areas of land out of production for different conservation purposes. We call these out-of-production schemes Supporting Information. In contrast, in-production schemes support environmentally sensitive approaches to the management of land that is used to grow crops or feed livestock.

For example, the use of agrochemicals might be reduced or prohibited or certain management actions, such as mowing grassland, might be restricted. The most widespread in-production scheme is organic farming. In our second meta-analysis, we used a mixed-effects meta-regression model with management type as a moderator variable. We found that out-of-production schemes were much more effective at enhancing species richness than in-production schemes Fig. A possible explanation may be that most of the out-of-production schemes we examined evaluated measures that take agricultural land out of production, such as the establishment of wild-flower strips.

The conversion of crop monocultures to semi-natural habitat results in a much larger increase in resource availability i. Schemes promoting the establishment of wildflower strips may also be better targeted to the conservation of a given species group than in-production schemes because they often specifically address a resource that is limiting population growth or size e. Many in-production schemes do not address specific species groups; rather, they aim to enhance biodiversity in general as one of several targets, alongside improvements in other ecosystem characteristics or services.

Targeting the needs and spatial distribution of specific species groups is most likely more important than whether schemes prescribe measures on or off land that is being used for farming. In many countries, there is a move toward better targeting of AES, either toward particular declining species groups or landscapes where they are likely to be effective. As this is being incorporated into AES and implemented between now and , one might expect a review similar to this one in to be able to show an increase in effectiveness of AES over time.

It is important to appreciate that species richness is just one measure of diversity, although this is the one most easily understood and used by policy makers. We think that the importance of this measure is overrated and other variables characterizing biodiversity should be applied in primary studies and analyzed if sufficient studies are available in meta-analyses e. An additional fundamental point is that in-production and out-of-production options typically support different communities. In-production options select for species adapted to the highly disturbed, cropped areas of fields, for example, in contrast to out-of-production options see the example of arable weeds in Storkey et al.

In addition to research on the ecological effectiveness of AES, there is a body of work on how to ensure that AES are palatable to farmers and therefore effective at changing farmer behavior. Uptake of specific AES options is a key element of their success and does not always correlate with ecological effectiveness. For example, Hodge and Reader found that the vast majority of options taken up in the first 5 years of entry level stewardship a horizontal scheme in England were the straightforward field corner and grass margin options that require little change of management or resource investment.

Evaluation of synthesized evidence shows that these are not the most effective AES options for enhancing biodiversity Dicks et al.

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  • The role of agri-environment schemes in conservation and environmental management.
  • Studies on motivations of farmers to take up AES or environmental management have repeatedly demonstrated that farmer attitudes are important in explaining uptake of environmental measures e. As well as the effect of general attitude, scheme adoption is linked to utilitarian motivations, such as payment rate and ease of fit within existing farm practice e. Many authors have pointed out that AES intended to support biodiversity should be designed with farmer circumstances and attitudes in mind e.

    Herzon and Mikk found that views of biodiversity among Finnish and Estonian farmers were largely restricted to the realm of wild nature outside the farmed environment. This implies a need to demonstrate to farmers when they can directly benefit from measures to promote functional ecological groups of biodiversity, such as pollinators, natural enemies, or soil biodiversity. The value of ecosystem services to agriculture has been much discussed recently e.

    For some services, such as food production, pest regulation, pollination, and soil nutrient cycling, farmers themselves are direct beneficiaries because their yields and input requirements are directly affected. Other services, such as air and water quality or enjoyment of cultural landscapes, are public goods i. The role AES can and should play in maintaining ecosystem services is still under discussion. There is a clear mandate for CAP to support delivery of public goods from agriculture European Commission but not to support actions that directly increase farm income.

    The effectiveness of specific AES options at delivering ecosystem service benefits has only just started to be tested. For example, a small number of studies outside Europe have demonstrated benefits to crop pollination from wildflower strips or patches Garibaldi et al. The combined effects of specific AES options on multiple ecosystem services are still poorly understood. In Europe agriculturally marginal areas, where the productivity of land is limited by biophysical or socio-economic constraints, are currently home to the highest concentrations of biodiversity and host the largest populations of threatened species Tryjanowski et al.

    Many of them typically occur in new central and eastern Member States Sutcliffe et al. These areas are under pressure from agricultural intensification and abandonment. Counteracting farmland abandonment in marginal areas is an important objective of AES in many countries, yet surprisingly few studies have examined the effects of AES on marginal farmland.

    What limited evidence there is suggests that AES can be very effective on low-intensity farmland. Schemes effectively support threatened birds in low-input cereal steppes in Central Spain Kleijn et al. Weis conducted an illustrative study in the German Eiffel mountain range, where many low-productive species-rich grasslands had been abandoned or afforested since the late s, but then AES were introduced in that paid farmers to reintroduce sheep grazing on abandoned grasslands. Weis compared trends in plant species richness in plots where grazing had recommenced and plots where sheep were kept out.

    However, it took 8—10 years before the first positive effects became apparent, which may explain why this has been an unpopular research topic. Previous AES were designed solely to maintain biodiversity e. More studies are needed, however, before general conclusions can be drawn about the effectiveness of AES in agriculturally marginal areas. As a conservation strategy, AES focus on reducing the impact of agricultural activities on species that inhabit the agricultural landscape. They are not the only possible route to protect such species.

    Another major conservation tool is protected areas, which can also be applied in agricultural landscapes. In some countries, there are protected sites managed as working farms for farmland wildlife e. Little is known about the relative efficiency of these different strategies to protect farmland biodiversity. A notable exception is the case of meadow bird conservation in the Netherlands. Settlement densities are much higher in protected areas than on farmland with meadow bird schemes, resulting, at the national level, in slightly more meadow birds breeding in protected areas than on farmland with meadow bird schemes PBL This suggests that, for this particular species group, protected areas are much more efficient than AES.

    However, it might be that most protected areas in the Netherlands are too small to maintain viable meadow bird populations in the long run, especially when they are bordered by inhospitable high-intensity grasslands or built-up areas that are generally avoided by these ground-nesting birds. So the apparent higher cost-effectiveness might be an illusion, hiding an extinction debt. The comparison in cost-effectiveness between AES and protected areas is important because both are funded with public budgets and both impact the potential for food production.

    Investing in one strategy does not necessarily mean there is less money available for the other strategy because the source of funds for AES has a very different underlying purpose — to support farm incomes and generate public goods from agriculture. Even so, cost-effective conservation is of interest to policy makers further discussion in Supporting Information.

    There has been little research on the link between farmer training or advice and the effectiveness of AES. Farmers are trained in agricultural production and have seldom experienced specific training or education in environmental management. Yet managing land for environmental outcomes requires a different set of skills and knowledge. Zonal AES schemes usually incorporate an element of training or advice.

    In the United Kingdom, zonal schemes are much more beneficial to bird diversity per unit cost than simplified horizontal schemes, despite the fact that a much larger proportion of the funding goes into setting up and checking the implementation rather than directly to farmers Armsworth et al. Horizontal AES often do not incorporate farmer training or advice but see Marja et al.

    One research project in the United Kingdom demonstrated that training farmers increases their confidence and develops a more professional attitude to agri-environmental management Lobley et al. The same project also demonstrated ecological benefits; there were more flower or seed resources and higher numbers of bees or birds on AES areas managed by trained farmers relative to untrained farmers summarized in Dicks et al.

    It has been repeatedly demonstrated that farmer field schools, common in low and middle income countries, enhance uptake of beneficial integrated pest management practices, although the schools do not seem to spread practices through the farming community beyond the attendees Waddington et al. Almost everywhere in the world except Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, cultivated farmland is still expanding and natural habitats continue to be lost.

    Even if further conversion to farmland can be stopped, there is strong evidence that the agricultural matrix between areas of natural habitat is used by many wild species and holds important resources for some Attwood et al. In this context, policies such as AES that encourage farming practices less harmful to wildlife could become a standard part of conservation policy more widely in the coming decades.

    Conservation programs that provide incentives directly to farmers to protect and manage land for biodiversity are not unique to Europe. The Australian program differs from European AES in that it aims to restore natural habitat grasslands, shrublands, forests on farmland rather than maintain the farmland itself. Compared with the amount of research in Europe, there is little information on the effectiveness of the Australian and U. So what has been learned in Europe that could be applied in the rest of the world? Research over the last 20 years shows that European AES have been generally beneficial for farmland biodiversity, leading in the majority of cases to a moderate increase in numbers of species present.

    There are suggestions that they have slowed the loss of farmland biodiversity in some countries Carvalheiro et al. Europeans have learned that the structure of the surrounding landscape and the degree of ecological contrast between land under schemes and the immediate surroundings are important moderators of this effectiveness. This understanding creates an opportunity to target AES toward areas where they are most likely to be effective, in intensively farmed landscapes of intermediate complexity, where they generate high ecological contrast by providing resources that are limited in the surroundings or potentially by buffering protected areas although this is untested.

    Europeans have also learned that AES are an expensive way to do conservation. As a policy tool, they are complex. It is not easy to improve their effectiveness in response to new research because they have to be easy to implement, feasible on a large scale, and palatable to farmers. As a result, it could be argued that AES should only be employed in parts of the world, such as Europe, where a high proportion of the unique or declining biodiversity depends directly on farmland or farming activities.

    Characteristics of AES in Europe Appendix S1 ; a summary of reviews of effectiveness of European AES Appendix S2 ; a summary information for each observation included in the meta-analyses Appendix S3 ; the funnel plot, regression test results, and fail-safe number Appendix S4 ; a summary table of meta-analysis results Appendix S5 ; country codes Appendix S6 ; and further discussion of cost-effectiveness of AES Appendix S7 are available online.

    The authors are solely responsible for the content and functionality of these materials. Queries other than absence of the material should be directed to the corresponding author. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Conservation Biology. Conserv Biol. Published online May Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Received Oct 15; Accepted Feb Conservation Biology published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

    This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Over half of the European landscape is under agricultural management and has been for millennia. Introduction There is an obsession with farmland conservation in Europe that is not understood in other parts of the world Stoate et al. Open in a separate window. Figure 1. Big Spending for Conservation Budgets for AES are substantial and for most countries usually equal or exceed the amounts of money spent on wildlife conservation through other routes. Effectiveness of Agri-Environment Schemes over Time The regular reforms of CAP allow countries to use novel scientific insights and modify their agri-environmental programs to increase their efficiency.

    Figure 2. Effectiveness of Agri-Environment Schemes in Productive versus Non-Productive Areas AES can be classified according to whether they apply to non-productive areas, such as field boundaries and wildflower strips sometimes called off-field practices [Garibaldi et al. The Human Factor In addition to research on the ecological effectiveness of AES, there is a body of work on how to ensure that AES are palatable to farmers and therefore effective at changing farmer behavior. Effectiveness of AES in Agriculturally Marginal Areas versus Intensively Farmed Areas In Europe agriculturally marginal areas, where the productivity of land is limited by biophysical or socio-economic constraints, are currently home to the highest concentrations of biodiversity and host the largest populations of threatened species Tryjanowski et al.

    Cost-effectiveness of Agri-Environment Schemes Compared with other Conservation Approaches As a conservation strategy, AES focus on reducing the impact of agricultural activities on species that inhabit the agricultural landscape. Importance of Training and Advice to the Effectiveness of Agri-Environment Schemes There has been little research on the link between farmer training or advice and the effectiveness of AES.

    Learning from the European experience Almost everywhere in the world except Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, cultivated farmland is still expanding and natural habitats continue to be lost. Acknowledgments P. Supporting Information Characteristics of AES in Europe Appendix S1 ; a summary of reviews of effectiveness of European AES Appendix S2 ; a summary information for each observation included in the meta-analyses Appendix S3 ; the funnel plot, regression test results, and fail-safe number Appendix S4 ; a summary table of meta-analysis results Appendix S5 ; country codes Appendix S6 ; and further discussion of cost-effectiveness of AES Appendix S7 are available online.

    Click here to view. The cost of policy simplification in conservation incentive programs. Ecology Letters. Declining birds in Australian agricultural landscapes may benefit from aspects of the European agri-environment model. Biological Conservation. The past and future of farmland birds in Hungary. Bird Study. Landscape-moderated biodiversity effects of agri-environmental management — a meta-analysis.

    Conservation in Europe as a model for emerging conservation issues globally. Result-oriented agri-environmental schemes in Europe and their potential for promoting behavioural change. Land Use Policy. Species richness declines and biotic homogenisation have slowed down for NW-European pollinators and plants. Mediterranean landscape changes: evidence from old postcards. Global Ecology and Biogeography. Journal of Agricultural Economics.