Austria

Country Infos

 

Results based nature conservation plan (ENP)

Overview

 

Scheme

In Austria the ‘Results-based nature conservation plan’ or Ergebnisorientierter Naturschutzplan (ENP) is included as a pilot project as part of Austria’s agri-environmental programme within the 2015 – 2020 rural development programme.

The pilot project aims to improve the conservation status of habitats and species found on High Nature Value Farmland (HNV) in Austria by involving farmers more actively in the conservation of these species and habitats. Every results-based model is confronted with the fundamental question of how the system should deal with situations where farmers have little or no influence on particular objectives and results. ENP solves this issue by using a dual system consisting of area objectives and control criteria (details see below, section indicators). 

Location of the scheme

whole country

Duration of the scheme

Since: 2015
Until: 2020 (extension to 2021)

Objective(s) of the scheme / project

  • Biodiversity

Which habitats or species are in the focus of the scheme / project?

  • Habitats (incl. habitats of Fauna-Flora-Habitat-Directive (FFH-D.))
  • Landscape elements

Which indicators are used?

  • Habitats (incl FFH and BD)
  • Species (incl FFH and BD)
  • Landscape Elements

Habitats for example pastures. Pastures are very important habitats for a variety of insects, small mammals, reptiles and birds. The high structural diversity of extensively grazed areas is both unique and very important. This ENP area includes a species-rich, semi-arid pasture that is being kept from becoming overgrown by extensive grazing. Old junipers and cornelian cherry bushes provide shelter for numerous insects and small mammals.

Species for example whinchat. This bird species breeds on the ground in hay meadows and is highly endangered due to the ever earlier mowing. In such areas, the aim of ENP is to prevent mowing in those sections where breeding activities are observed by the farmer.

Landscape elements for example partly cut hedges: Creation and protection of a habitat for the red-backed shrike with partly cut hedges, single trees and single thorn bushes.

 

In the ENP we have area objectives and control criteria:

 

Area objectives

Tailored objectives were defined for each ENP area in accordance with the ecological baseline. These targets were clear to the farmers and were directly related to cultivation practices, however it was also conceded that in certain years the farmers’ influence on meeting the objectives might be limited. For example, the establishment of a breeding pair of a certain bird species or the occurrence of certain plant species might be defined as an objective for a particular area. Of course, cultivation measures can have a massive impact on whether certain farmland birds breed on cultivated land, however the causes of a reduction in the local population can also be attributed to other factors such as the quality of the winter quarters or climate. The situation is similar for a number of plant species such as orchids, which simply do not occur in some years. For this reason, failure to meet the area objectives does not automatically lead to sanctions for the farmer.

Technical guidance is provided, and evaluations are conducted to help meet area objectives and corresponding indicators, however no sanctions are imposed in the event of non-compliance.

 

Control criteria

In addition to area objectives, so-called control criteria are developed. These are intended as a kind of early warning system for possible undesirable developments on the land. As such, they are related to the area objectives but conceived differently. Control criteria are indicators that, in good time, draw attention to negative developments regarding nature conservation. They have a highly causal relationship with cultivation measures. Examples for control criteria can be the absence of dock or certain neophytes on the land or the presence of certain vegetation structures. Depending on the severity of the infringement, a failure to comply with the control criteria leads to sanctions, the magnitude of which is determined by the control authority (AMA, Agrarmarkt Austria, the leading Austrian agricultural marketing company).

Control criteria and the corresponding indicators are sanctioned in the event of non-compliance

Design of scheme / project

  • Pure Result Based Payments

By which fund(s) is the scheme / project implemented?

  • Agri Environmental Measures of CAP
  • Other measures of Rural Development

How are the incentives (payment levels) calculated?

  • Based on the costs of management actions

Is there a top up in case of reaching the goals?

  • No

How many hectares are in the scheme (year 2020)?

  • 1.001 – 2.000

How many farmers take part in the scheme?

  • 101 – 500

How are participating farmers supervised/advised?

  • Advisors visits (obligatory)
  • Information documents (pamphlets, reports, etc.)
  • Information meetings/workshops (voluntary)

Are there any evaluation results (2020)?

  • Yes

The ENP evaluation has shown that farmers understand the objectives and know through what measures they can be achieved.

It was found that field visits, on which objectives were defined and evaluated and farmers received individual guidance, were of primary importance to the success of ENP.

http://www.suske.at/en/projects/all-projects/results-based-nature-conservation-plan

Website

http://www.suske.at/en/projects/all-projects/results-based-nature-conservation-plan

Contact person

Suske Consulting
DI Johanna Huber
Hollandstraße 20/11
1020 Wien

office@suske.at
Tel + 43 1 95 76 306


Showroom

 

Background

Historically, contractual nature conservation in Europe has been designed mainly to be measure-oriented. This means that authorities and farmers agree upon concrete management measures for subsidised high nature value farmland, in order to achieve a local or regional conservation objective. In this approach, however, the farmer usually learns very little about the conservation objectives on his or her land and often even less about the concrete results expected from their land management measures. In the past, this measure-oriented approach has often led to situations where it was not clear to farmers why exactly they had to take certain measures on the areas of their land covered by contract.

From the very outset, results-based contractual nature conservation focuses on the concrete conservation objectives to be achieved on the land. During a field visit, the objectives are developed, discussed and agreed upon with the farmers. The concrete measures are not imposed but can be determined by the farmers themselves.

In Austria, an initial concept for the implementation of a results-based nature conservation measure was developed in 2014 and tested on 16 farms. The design of the approach was based on the overall farm management nature conservation plan of ÖPUL (Gesamtbetrieblicher Naturschutzplan) and was to become known as “Results-based nature conservation plan” (Ergebnisorientierter Naturschutzplan, ENP). The results-based approach proved to be highly effective for a variety of nature conservation objectives, particularly in the field of animal ecology and on areas with a nature conservation status that is yet to be developed and improved. An initial evaluation also demonstrated that ENP was particularly effective in achieving objectives on valuable agricultural land.

Due to the positive results achieved during the test phase, ENP was included in ÖPUL 2015 as a separate subcategory of the ÖPUL Nature Conservation Measure and was offered to a previously defined number of farms (max. 150). The coordination and cooperation with farms as well as the development of accompanying training material was realised within the framework of an EAFRD project (ENP I and ENP II).

System

Every results-based model is confronted with the fundamental question of how the system should deals with situations where farmers have little or no influence on particular objectives and results. ENP solves this issue by using a dual system consisting of area objectives and control criteria.

Tailored objectives were defined for each ENP area in accordance with the ecological baseline. These targets were clear to the farmers and were directly related to cultivation practices, however it was also conceded that in certain years the farmers’ influence on meeting the objectives might be limited. For example, the establishment of a breeding pair of a certain bird species or the occurrence of certain plant species might be defined as an objective for a particular area. Of course, cultivation measures can have a massive impact on whether certain farmland birds breed on cultivated land, however the causes of a reduction in the local population can also be attributed to other factors such as
the quality of the winter quarters or climate. The situation is similar for a number of plant species such as orchids, which simply do not occur in some years. For this reason, failure
to meet the area objectives does not automatically lead to sanctions for the farmer.

Technical guidance is provided and evaluations are conducted to help meet area objectives and corresponding indicators, however no sanctions are imposed in the event of non-compliance.

In addition to area objectives, so-called control criteria are developed. These are intended as a kind of early warning system for possible undesirable developments on the land. As such, they are related to the area objectives but conceived differently. Control criteria are indicators that, in good time, draw attention to negative developments regarding nature conservation. They have a highly causal relationship with cultivation measures. Examples for control criteria can be the absence of dock or certain neophytes on the land or the presence of certain vegetation structures. Depending on the severity of the infringement, a failure to comply with the control criteria leads to sanctions, the magnitude of which is determined by the control authority (AMA, Agrarmarkt Austria, the leading Austrian agricultural marketing company).

Control criteria and the corresponding indicators are sanctioned in the event of non-compliance.

The area objectives and control criteria were defined by ecologists together with the farmers during farm visits. On these visits, ecologists discussed important information about target species with the farmers, including details about their habitats and the types of conditions these species need in order to survive. Between two and five objectives and approximately three control criteria were defined for each area. The choice of objectives was based on the need for nature conservation action on the land. The farmer’s prior knowledge was also taken into consideration. If, for example, a farmer was particularly interested in the grasshopper fauna or bird fauna on his or her land, this was taken into account when defining the objectives and indicators. The farm visits also included discussions on which management measures might be most suitable to meet the objectives. After the visit, each farmer was provided with an individually tailored “ENP Logbook.” This logbook included all the objectives and control criteria previously defined, as well as additional information relevant to the ENP areas on the farmer’s land. Care was taken to present all this information clearly and to illustrate it using drawings and photos. The farmer also uses this document write down the measures implemented on the areas as well as any relevant observations made.

A sketch from the ENP logbook further illustrates area objectives
The sketch shows the differences between Bromus erectus, Stipa pennata and Festuca rubra.

Evaluation

One main reason why farmers participate is the increased flexibility they are granted in their cultivation practices (see chart below). This is reflected in the high level of agreement to the statements “I participate because I do not have to adhere to strict requirements as to when and how to cultivate my land” and “I participate because I can adapt my farming to weather conditions”. Another important motive is the opportunity to receive training in ecology. This is reflected in the high level of agreement with the following statements: “I participate because I can learn more about animals and plants,” “I participate because I want to better understand how my farming practices affect plants and animals” and “I participate because it allows me to receive individual ecological advice for my nature- conservation areas”. The third important factor leading to participation is that in ENP they “feel valued as farmers,” especially because they are given the competence to manage their nature-conservation areas themselves.

The online survey of ENP farms demonstrated that there are three main motivations for farmers to participate in the ENP, which are of equal importance to them.