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AERU’s Ecological Focus Area Calculator being put to work

European Commission’s science and knowledge service uses system developed at the University of Hertfordshire UH to assess benefits of EFA implementation.

In a new report published by the JRC (Joint Research Centre), AERU researchers and their collaborators have published the results of a study in which their EFA (Ecological Focus Area) Calculator was used as a tool to assess the impacts on biodiversity and other ecosystem services of EFA implementation at a European level. The potential impacts were assessed for NUTS3 regions across Europe, using data on EFA implementation from 2015, and the results highlight a clear relationship between the potential impacts and the types of EFA implemented. The greatest benefits for biodiversity were predicted for NUTS3 regions in which landscape features represent more than 50% of the declared EFAs (particularly in relation to invertebrates, birds and terrestrial plants), with good results also being indicated where more than 70% of the declared EFA is land laying fallow. Conversely the lowest scores were obtained for areas in which more than 70% of the EFA is in the form of catch crops. NUTS3 areas in which landscape features account for more than 50% of EFA declared, also performed better than others as far as an overall score for non-biodiversity ecosystem services is concerned; whilst good results in relation to the chemical condition of freshwaters were also predicted where catch crops constitute more than 70% of the EFA declared, and if more than 70% of the declared EFA is fallow land, it is likely to be of benefit in relation to pollination services.

This report then makes a valuable contribution to ongoing attempts to ensure that funding for agri-environmental measures actually results in the benefits we desire. In the past, we have judged success simply by measuring the uptake of particular options, rather than quantifiable biodiversity or other environmental improvements. Increasingly however, the European Commission is looking towards results-based agri-environment schemes, in which there is a much closer link between payment and environmental outcomes. Clearly then it is important for policy makers to have a way of deciding what EFA measures should be implemented in order to deliver the changes they wish to see, and the tool developed by AERU will help them achieve this.

University of Hertfordshire
University of Hertfordshire, 2023.