Project

Back to overview

Grassland management: designing tomorrow's farmland for biodiversity

English title Grassland management: designing tomorrow's farmland for biodiversity
Applicant Arlettaz Raphaël
Number 125398
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Ökologie und Evolution Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Ecology
Start/End 01.03.2010 - 31.03.2013
Approved amount 428'427.00
Show all

Keywords (14)

farmland biodiversity; grassland ecology; agro-ecosystem management; conservation biology; Biodiversity; Conservation; Grassland management; Flora; Fauna; Nature protection; Farmland; Agro-ecosystems; Plants; Insects

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
The loss of farmland heterogeneity has triggered a farmland biodiversity crisis. Agri-environmental schemes are voluntary programmes designed to restore farmland biodiversity by financially supporting farmers who modify their farming practice to provide environmental benefits. Although some 25% of European farmland is under some sort of agri-environmental contract, these programmes provide only mixed benefits for biodiversity. The restoration of farmland wildlife is believed to require changes that go further than the traditional extensification suggested by most programmes. In 2008-2011, the Swiss federal government provides more than CHF 11 billions to direct payments, part of which supporting incentives for biodiversity. It is thus essential to ensure that these measures provide the best return on investment for biodiversity. In the Swiss lowlands, low intensity managed grasslands are by far the most common and most extended type of Ecological Compensation Area. It is therefore where the greatest biodiversity restoration potential exists in the lowlands. Here we experimentally modify mowing regime in low-intensity managed grasslands so as to increase spatial, structural and ecological heterogeneity. Mountain agro-ecosystems are undergoing rapid land use changes in the Alps, partly due to intensification of meadowland management, which causes a dramatic decrease of biodiversity. Here we study experimentally the effect of aerial irrigation and liquid manure spraying, two novel, seemingly detrimental management regimes for wildlife, on mountain grassland biodiversity. Changes in biodiversity, taxon-specific biomasses and food chain functionalities will be estimated using responses from different plant and animal taxa representative for grassland communities. In addition, changes in hay yield and quality will be assessed. The expected outcome will help understanding the dynamics of grassland communities and ecosystem functions in both lowland and mountain farmland in response to implementable changes in management practice. By confronting agronomic data with biodiversity and biomass metrics we shall provide guidance for better agri-environmental policies, which will help in optimizing the biodiversity benefits expected from the flow of subsidies towards agri-environmental schemes.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Does delaying the first mowing date benefit biodiversity in meadowland?
Humbert J.Y. J. Pellet P. Buri & R. Arlettaz (2012), Does delaying the first mowing date benefit biodiversity in meadowland?, in Environmental Evidence, 1(article 9), 1-13.
Delaying mowing and leaving uncut refuges boost orthopterans in extensively managed meadows: evidence drawn from real field-scale experimentation
Pierrick Buri Jean-Yves Humbert Raphaël Arlettaz, Delaying mowing and leaving uncut refuges boost orthopterans in extensively managed meadows: evidence drawn from real field-scale experimentation, in Agriculture, Ecosystems, Environment.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Amt für Landwirtschaft und Natur, Kanton Graubünden Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
European Congress of Conservation Biology (3 talks) 01.09.2012 Glasgow
Student Conference on Conservation Science, Cambridge, UK (1 poster, 1 talk) 20.03.2012 Cambridge University, UK
Biology 2012 (PACE12), Fribourg, Switzerland (1 poster, 1 talk) 08.02.2012 Fribourg University
Forum pour la compensation écologique (1 talk) 03.11.2011 Bern, WWF education centre


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Grassland management: project: designing tomorrow's farmland for biodiversity 28.02.2012 Bern University
Grassland management and biodiversity [Financement CUSO (doctoral school)] 16.06.2010 Bern (University) and Seeland, and Valais
Grassland management project: designing tomorrow's farmland for biodiversity 01.03.2010 Bern University

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Field demonstration 22.05.2013 St-Martin, Valais


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media La stupeur est dans le pré La Liberté Western Switzerland 10.07.2012
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Pro Montes Preis 2012 Für die Zukunft der alpinen Kulturlandschaf http://www.alpinfo.ch/de/forschung/projekte/promontespreis German-speaking Switzerland 01.06.2012
Media relations: print media, online media ProMontesPreis und bestes Referat Unilink German-speaking Switzerland 30.05.2012

Awards

Title Year
Policy brief award (ECCB Glasgow) 2012
Prize Pro Montes 2012

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
108267 Conservation biology of a threatened bird of upper subalpine biocenoses, the Black grouse: ecological niche modelling and risks linked to global landscape changes and human-induced habitat alterations 01.03.2005 Project funding (Div. I-III)
149656 Grassland management: designing tomorrow's farmland for biodiversity 01.02.2014 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

1. The loss of farmland heterogeneity has triggered a global farmland biodiversity crisis. Agri-environmental schemes (AES) are voluntary programmes designed to protect and restore farmland biodiversity by financially supporting farmers who modify their farming practice to provide environmental benefits.2. Although some 25% of European farmland is under some sort of agri-environmental contract - totalling € 24 billion subsidies inside the EU for the period 1994-2003 - it appears that these programmes provide only mixed biodiversity benefits. The restoration of farmland wildlife is believed to require changes that go further than the traditional extensification suggested by most programmes.3. In 2008-2011, the Swiss federal government will provide more than CHF 11 billions to direct payments, part of which supporting incentives for habitat restoration and biodiversity preservation within agro-ecosystems. It is thus essential to ensure that these measures provide the best return on investment in terms of nature conservation.4. In the Swiss lowlands, low intensity managed grasslands (hay and litter meadows, field margins, fallows, wildflower areas...) are by far the most common and most extended type of Ecological Compensation Area (ECA). It is therefore where the greatest biodiversity potential exists in the lowlands if proper ecological conditions could be restored. Here we propose to experimentally modify mowing regime in low-intensity managed grasslands so as to increase structural and ecological heterogeneity (research module M1). Along with control grasslands ECA where no changes in management will be made, three treatments will be considered separately and applied consistently during 3 years (first phase of this project): (i) delaying the first mowing date from June 15th to July 21st and (ii) alternating mowing on half of the surface each year, and (iii) limiting the number of annual cuts to two, separated by a minimum of 8 weeks.5. Mountain agro-ecosystems are undergoing rapid land use changes in the Alps. On the one hand, the abandonment of traditional farming practices leads to encroachment and progressive return to forest in subalpine habitats. On the other hand, meadowland management intensifies rapidly, causing a dramatic decrease of plant, insect and vertebrate diversity. We propose to study experimentally the effect of aerial irrigation (vs. traditional, terrestrial watering) and liquid manure spraying, two novel, seemingly detrimental management regimes for wildlife, on mountain grassland biodiversity in Swiss Alpine regions (research module M2). 6. In both modules, changes in biodiversity and taxon-specific biomasses (as abundance ultimately dictates major energy and nutrient fluxes and exchanges along the food chain, i.e. major ecosystem functions) will be estimated using responses from vascular plants, butterflies, ground beetles, grasshoppers, spiders and birds, which together are representative for communities of grassland ecosystems. In addition, changes in agronomic yield (dry matter/ha) as well as hay quality will be assessed each year.7. The expected outcome will help understanding the dynamics of grassland communities and ecosystem functions in both lowland and mountain farmland in response to easily implementable changes in management practice. By confronting agronomic data with biodiversity and biomass metrics in agro-ecosystems, the present research aims at improving the scientific basis for agri-environmental policy making. While it will provide original insights into farmland community dynamics, it aims at optimizing the biodiversity benefits expected from the flow of subsidies towards agri-environmental schemes. In the mid term, the data obtained from the present research will be integrated into an overall systematic assessment aimed at engineering agro-ecosystems that provide the best return on investment (subsidies) regarding biodiversity benefits, whilst keeping economically sustainable agricultural yield.
-