Project coordinator: Graham Tucker (IEEP)
Research: Dr. Reinhard Klenke, Barbara Frey, Aleksandra Zarzycka
Collaboration: Graham Tucker (IEEP),
Gavin Siriwardena (BTO), Petr Vorisek (EBCC, CSO), Anna Gamero (EBCC, GWDG)
Funded by: Directorate-General for Environment (European Commission)
Project management at UFZ: Dr. Reinhard Klenke
Funded project duration: 01.03. 2016 - 19.07. 2017
Motivation & Description
Agriculture is the predominant land-use in the EU and there is robust evidence that there are widespread declines in farmland biodiversity in agricultural areas. The drivers of these declines therefore need to be identified and addressed if the EU is to achieve its target of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2020. A variety of studies have indicated that farmland biodiversity declines are often the result of changes in agricultural systems and practices, including increased intensification and specialisation in many areas, or, in contrast, agricultural abandonment in others. However, further detailed evidence is required of the relationships between agriculture and biodiversity, across a wider range of agricultural habitats, species groups and Member States to reliably inform agricultural and other land-use policy responses.
To help to address this evidence gap, this study has been carried out with the objective of elaborating and applying an evidence-based methodology for analysing potential causal links between the state of biodiversity and certain agricultural management practices in the EU. This requires the development of an analytical framework that is sufficiently flexible to be applicable to multiple taxa or elements of biodiversity (such as indices describing communities of various groups of organisms, via empirical data or proxies such as habitat condition) and their responses to environmental variation in space and time.
In particular, it aimed to develop a methodology for statistically analysing potential agriculture-related drivers on the status and trends of selected flagship habitats and indicator species in the EU, and to use this to identify potential causality between changes in agricultural practices and the status and trends of biodiversity in the EU. The methodology was used to carry out an integrated EU-wide analysis of the relationship between agricultural land-use variables and biodiversity, and to guide six more detailed case studies of the causal links between agriculture and biodiversity.
In principle, the project aimed to cover all elements of biodiversity, in all farmland habitats, including semi-natural habitats that are impacted by farming (chiefly grazing). In practice it was limited to those groups for which high quality data are available at national and EU scales. This led to most analyses being conducted on data for birds, with butterfly data also contributing to the integrated analysis and two case studies, and mammal and spider data each contributing to one case study. One further case study involved a literature survey of a wider range of animal species and groups (predominantly carabid beetles, spiders, earthworms, hoverflies, solitary bees, bumblebees, butterflies, birds and mammals)
The UFZ was responsible for
Case study 5: The effects of increased rape and maize cropping on agricultural biodiversity
This case study provides a meta-analysis of the impacts of increased oil-seed-rape and maize cropping on farmland biodiversity, considering all wildlife groups for which studies could be found. This focussed on Germany as the area used for rape and maize cultivation has increased substantially over the last 25 years, largely as a result of policies that have encouraged bioenergy production.
The meta-analysis was based on the results of 267 studies published in scientific journals, reports, and presentations over the last 25 years on the effects of maize and rape crops on biodiversity. The case study also took into account the results of studies that measured the impact of increased rape and maize cultivation on population trends of farmland bird species. In addition, it included a more detailed analysis of the impacts of maize and rape on the population of Common Crane (Grus grus) in Europe.
The results indicate that the impacts of maize and rape crops on biodiversity are mainly caused by their replacement of more biodiverse crops (such as grasslands, fallow land and semi-natural land). With the exception of two taxa showing no effects or small positive effects (carabid beetles, spiders), maize had the most detrimental impacts on biodiversity, negatively affecting earthworms, spiders, hoverflies, solitary bees, bumblebees, butterflies, birds and mammals. More species/taxa benefit from, or at least are not negatively affected by, rape cultivation (spiders, carabid beetles, hoverflies, solitary bees, bumblebees, mammals).
A similar pattern of results is apparent in relation to the magnitude of the impacts. The study found that there is substantial evidence that the increased cultivation of maize and rape is leading to a loss of agricultural habitats with higher conservation value, which is one of the main drivers for the population decline in farmland birds. However, certain bird species such as Common Crane may benefit from a higher supply of feeding habitat in their resting and stopover sites especially during autumn migration and partly also in winter.
Klenke R A, Frey B, and Zarzycka A (2017): Case study 5: The effects of increased rape and maize cropping on agricultural biodiversity. In Siriwardena G, Tucker G (eds): Service contract to support follow-up actions to the mid-term review of the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 in relation to target 3A – Agriculture. Chapter 9 of the Report to the European Commission, Institute for European Environmental Policy, London. pp 147-183. DOI:0.2779/981605. direct access: https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/cd1c6a81-969e-11e7-b92d-01aa75ed71a1/language-en
Siriwardena, G. and Tucker, G. (eds) (2017): Service contract to support follow-up actions to
the mid-term review of the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 in relation to target 3A –
Agriculture. Report to the European Commission, Institute for European Environmental
Policy, London. DOI:0.2779/981605. direct access: https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/cd1c6a81-969e-11e7-b92d-01aa75ed71a1/language-en