AERU AGRICULTURE & ENVIRONMENT RESEARCH UNIT
 

Ecosystem services calculator

AERU have undertaken several projects that have sought to assess, calculate and quantify the ecosystem services that are delivered by different components in agricultural landscapes. This includes work to calculate the benefits provided by Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) and semi-natural habitats. The projects have synthesised the current knowledge on the impacts on ecosystem services and biodiversity by different features and land uses and the development of software tools for assessing and calculating ecosystem services, including the EFA Calculator and QuESSA. This work has been undertaken in three related projects which are outlined below. The work is also feeding into the ongoing FRAMEwork project.

2017 to 2019: EFA calculator maintenance and development (Ref. Ares(2017)1119080 - 02/03/2017)

In 2015 the Joint Research Centre (JRC) commissioned AERU to develop the Ecological Focus Areas (EFA) Calculator software, which calculates the potential impact on ecosystem services and biodiversity of different EFAs on a farm. During 2016 it was used by the JRC to make an assessment of potential impacts of EFA implementation at a regional level, and at the end-2016 to early 2017 the software was further developed to integrate the outputs of the Quantification of Ecosystem Services for Sustainable Agriculture (QuESSA) project. Given the successful development and level of utilisation to date, the JRC has commissioned AERU to undertake a maintenance and development contract. The aim of the contract is to ensure that the EFA calculator is kept up to date and to improve the tool to better meet the requirements of the JRC. The work will involve updating the core database with the most current information on EFA elements and their eligibility in the EU-28, updating the impact assessment data with new knowledge on the impact of EFAs on ecosystem services and biodiversity, enhancing data export/import routines, and other general maintenance of the software, including ensuring it is free from bugs and errors. New versions of the EFA Calculator software will be released throughout 2017 and 2018, as and when updates are implemented.

2016 to 2017: QuESSA: Quantification of Ecosystem Services for Sustainable Agriculture (Ref. EU 7th Framework Programme: No 311879)

The work carried out for this project built on that done in 2015 to develop a software application for the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) known as the Ecological Focus Areas (EFA) Calculator, and was undertaken by AERU in collaboration with the team responsible for the QuESSA (Quantification of Ecosystem Services for Sustainable Agriculture) project. This latter project was intended to quantify the contribution of key semi-natural habitats in providing essential ecological services across a range of economically important cropping systems, farming intensities and four European agro-climatic zones, and one aim of the project was to develop a tool to deliver the outputs from the project on farms. Consequently there was a clear overlap between the outputs of the QuESSA project and the tool already developed by AERU for the Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) Calculator, such that it made sense to utilise the EFA Calculator as a delivery vehicle for the QuESSA outputs. This project explored, developed and implemented options to achieve this, and adapted the existing EFA Calculator to include the QuESSA outputs, resulting in a single consistent tool. The aim of the project was to provide a software tool that delivers the outputs from the QuESSA project on farms in a format that would facilitate the enhancement and exploitation of semi-natural habitats for their ecosystem services provision.

2014 to 2015: Guidance & tool to support farmers in taking aware decisions on Ecological Focus Areas (awareEFA) (Ref. JRC/IPR/2014/H.4/0022/NC)

Farming has a central role to play in the delivery of a number of desirable 'ecosystem services' (also known as 'ecological goods and services'), including those related to rural biodiversity. However, despite the fact that that there has been significant emphasis placed on biodiversity in agri-environmental policy over the years, it is generally accepted that there is still some way to go if the industry is to deliver what is expected of it in this regards. Most notably for example, populations of farmland birds and mammals have declined across the EU over recent decades.

It is hoped that the introduction of 'Ecological Focus Areas' on the farm will aid in delivering tangible environmental improvements, but this is to some extent dependent on the specific combination of EFA elements a farmer selects, and its appropriateness to the local environment. Consequently, JRC wished to develop a tool which would help farmers select EFA elements that could deliver optimal environmental benefits. The developed tool accounts for the farms site specific characteristics and ensures that both the EFA solution overall, and the specific EFA elements selected, are pragmatic in terms of management and control.

AERU were contracted to develop this tool on the basis of the latest scientific understanding of the relevant issues. The project ran for nine months from January 2015 and resulted in a user-friendly system that allows farmers to consider complex environmental issues within their decision-making processes, without the need for in-depth scientific knowledge.

Publications

  • Tzilivakis, J., Warner, D.J. & Holland, J.M. (2019). Developing practical techniques for quantitative assessment of ecosystem services on farmland. Ecological Indicators106: 105514. DOI
  • Tzilivakis, J., Warner, D., Green, A. & Lewis, K. (2019). Spatial analysis of the benefits and burdens of Ecological Focus Areas for water-related ecosystem services vulnerable to climate change in Europe. Mitig. Adapt. Strateg. Glob. Change24(2): 205-233. DOI
  • Warner, D., Tzilivakis, J., Green, A. & Lewis, K. (2017). Ecological Focus Areas and beneficial insect (Coleoptera: Carabidae) conservation for pest control: habitat suitability and farm specific factors. In: G. Begg, F. Bianchi, N. Birch, B. Gerowitt, J. Holland, D. Lupi, C. Moonen, M. Ramsden & P. van Rijn (Eds.), Proceedings of the 7th IOBC-WPRS Working Group meeting on Landscape Management for Functional Biodiversity (IOBC-WPRS Bulletin vol. 122). Dundee (Scotland, UK), 29-31 March, 6-10.
  • Tzilivakis, J. and Warner, D. (2017). Adapting the EFA Calculator software to integrate the outputs from the QuESSA project. Report for EU 7th Framework Programme Project No 311879.
  • Angileri, V., Fasbender, D., Van Eupen, C., Tzilivakis, J., Warner, D., Devos, W., Loudjani, P., Paracchini, M-L. and Terres, J-M. (2017). Using the Ecological Focus Area (EFA) calculator to assess the potential impact of EFA implementation on biodiversity and ecosystem services. European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC) Technical Report. DOI: 10.2788/20041.
  • Tzilivakis, J., Warner, D.J., Green, A., Lewis, K.A. & Angileri, V. (2016). An indicator framework to help maximise potential benefits for ecosystem services and biodiversity from ecological focus areas. Ecological Indicators, 69: 859-872. DOI
  • Warner, D., Tzilivakis, J., Green, A. and Lewis, K.A. (2016). A guidance tool to support farmers with ecological focus areas – the benefits of agroforestry for ecosystem services and biodiversity. 3rd European Agroforestry Conference, Montpellier, France.
  • Tzilivakis, J., Warner, D.J., Green, A. and Lewis, K.A. (2015). Guidance and tool to support farmers in taking aware decisions on Ecological Focus Areas. Final report for project RC/IPR/2014/H.4/0022/NC, Joint Research Centre (JRC), European Commission.
  • Tzilivakis, J., Warner, D., Green, A. & Lewis, K.A. (2015). Adapting to climate change: Assessing the vulnerability of ecosystem services in Europe in the context of rural development. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change20(4): 547-572. DOI

Contact

Dr. John Tzilivakis

Links


Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) Calculator

QuESSA

Joint Research Centre (JRC)

 

University of Hertfordshire
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University of Hertfordshire, 2020.