A guidance tool to support farmers with ecological focus areas – the benefits of agroforestry for ecosystem services and biodiversity
Farming has a significant role to play in the delivery of a number of desirable outcomes, including ecosystem services and biodiversity. Regardless of past agri-environmental policy and its intentions, there are still ongoing ecological problems that need attention, as demonstrated by the decline in populations of birds and mammals across the EU. Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) have been introduced as part of the so called 'greening' measures of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Member States can select (activate) the elements that they wish to be applicable within the area for which they are the competent authority. Agroforestry (intercropping) has been activated in 12 MSs. Eligible farms, those with an arable area 15ha or more, select from the EFAs activated in their Member State. They need to account for 5% by area of the total arable land declared, including fallow land, temporary grassland and crop land. It does not include permanent grassland or permanent crops. The introduction of Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) on the farm has potential to deliver tangible environmental improvements. It is also recognised however, that the extent of such improvements, and so the success of the policy, will ultimately depend on the specific EFA elements selected in addition to farm specific factors. To address this issue, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) commissioned a project to develop a software tool to help farmers select EFA elements that can deliver the optimal environmental benefits. It needed to consider the site specific characteristics of individual farms, and the pragmatic requirements of ensuring that the EFA solution overall was realistic in terms of farm management. The software developed, the EFA calculator, is a standalone Windows application freely available to download from https://sitem.herts.ac.uk/aeru/efa/. The calculator determines the potential impact of each EFA feature on ecosystem services, biodiversity and farm management. For each feature-impact, a set of parameters (and classes within those parameters) are derived and then used to determine the relative significance of the impact of that feature on the specified impact. A bespoke scoring system has been developed, which although relatively simple, distils complex and data intensive parameters into a readily interpretable and user friendly format. This extended abstract reports on the ecosystem services provided by agroforestry, as highlighted by the EFA calculator tool.