Pilot Results-based agri-environment schemes at landscape scale in Transylvanian HNV farmland
Objectives of the project were to
• Use HNV areas in Transylvania, Romania, as pilot sites to test design, development and use of result-based remuneration schemes to conserve and enhance biodiversity;
• increase the understanding of factors that contribute to the success or failure of such schemes
• identify opportunities and conditions for increasing the use of such schemes in Romania and in the EU more widely, especially in future CAP Rural Development programmes demonstrate the potential of these schemes to achieve ecological targets, using monitoring of indicators in pilot measure participant and control grasslands
• increase the understanding of the benefits of RBAPS schemes within the rural community
• promote RBAPS schemes within the Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development (MARD) and Ministry of Environment (MoE), based on results achieved.
Location of the schemeseveral regions
Grassland sites in Southeast Transylvania covering 150 ha, in two biogeographical areas, Continental and Alpine
Duration of the schemeSince: 2015
Objective(s) of the scheme / project
Which habitats or species are in the focus of the scheme / project?
- Only habitats of FFH-D.
The indicator species were selected for hay meadows only (i.e. excluding pastures), because
- these are the grassland habitats with the highest plant species richness and at the greatest threat of land use change
- they have more homogeneous vegetation, making them more suitable for assessment with results indicators
- they are smaller and are generally single ownership (compared to communal ownership of many pastures), making them more suitable for the limited budget and intensive supervision of each owner/manager within this pilot scheme.
Which indicators are used?
- Species (incl FFH and BD)
We developed a list of 30 indicator species. See the link in Showroom and here.
The potential indicator species were assessed according to the following criteria:
- frequency, whereby very rare or very frequent species were scored lower (very rare species are not useful as indicators)
- correlation with subjective HNV score assessed in the field, and correlation with habitat favourability (CCA scores)
- fodder value (it is not realistic to encourage farmers to maintain poisonous plants)
- ease of identification and detection by farmers and control agency staff
- ensuring a range of wet, mesic and dry species were included.
Furthermore, the chosen species are sensitive to changes in management, and will disappear if:
• large amounts of synthetic fertilisers or manure are applied
• herbicides are applied
• cutting frequency increases
• the meadow is cut too early (usually before mid-June)
• heavy machinery is used to cut and collect the hay
• the meadow is grazed during the main hay-growing season
• the meadow is not mowed.
They have been selected because they only grow in hay meadows managed at low intensity, and are associated with high plant and animal species richness as well as good quality hay. All the species are easy to recognise, and are flowering in the spring and summer when the monitoring is carried out. Species that look very similar have been grouped together to avoid confusion. In the case of such species groups (e.g. different types of orchids), the group counts as a single indicator.
Design of scheme / project
- Pure Result Based Payments
- Stepwise increasing Result Based Payments
The project partners decided on three levels of payment linked to 5, 8 and 10 indicator species detected, tol help to prevent decline of moderately species rich grasslands, and also provide an added incentive to maintain the most ecologically valuable areas in good condition. A continuous payment scale linked to the exact number of indicator species is too sensitive to variability in weather conditions and surveyor error.
By which fund(s) is the scheme / project implemented?
Direct funding from DG ENV
How are the incentives (payment levels) calculated?
Combination of income foregone, management costs and transaction costs.
The number of indicator species present in a grassland was assumed to decline if management becomes less “biodiversity-friendly”, e.g. through earlier mowing or excessive application of fertiliser. Thus it was assumed for the calculation that the higher the number of species, the greater the cost incurred to the farmer. The calculations were based on income foregone and additional costs if ideal management was carried out, and transaction costs – the costs to the farmer of learning the methodology, plant identification, and doing his own controls, as required under the measure. This allowed a calculation of payments based on associated management, even if that management was not obligatory, since the species numbers were a fair indication of management carried out.
Is there a top up in case of reaching the goals?
If farmers moved up from one level to another during the contract, they received the higher payment.
If farmers moved down from a higher to a lower level, no payment.
How many hectares are in the scheme (year 2020)?
- 100 – 500
How many farmers take part in the scheme?
- 50 – 100
How are participating farmers supervised/advised?
- Advisors visits (obligatory)
All parcels were self–assessed by farmers, and also by the project specialists. If this scheme is adopted more widely, we would expect self-assessment and random checks of a percentage of parcels by payments/control agency.
Are there any evaluation results (2020)?
Farmer Attitudes: farmers preferred RBAPS to conventional a-e schemes because the the flexibility: they were permitted to react to seasonal variables, especially weather. The farmers generally enjoyed learning the species, but there was natural variation in their ability to recognise them. There was a wide range in accuracy of the farmer surveys.
Monitoring and Evaluation:
The 2017 and 2018 results compared to the 2016 results confirmed that the methodology is moderately robust. Combining the two areas, the majority of the transects (51%) showed no change or only 1 species difference. This is more likely to be controller error, rather than actual increase / decrease in species numbers.
There were fluctuations, in some cases of up to 7 species between years. This could have been caused by errors made in locating the transect. Future schemes should take into account the fact that that errors can occur.
The same indicator species are not always found on the transect. This is to be expected from a biological indicator that is sensitive to its environment and should be considered when designing the scheme requirements. It is important that there are categories rather than a continuous scale to allow for fluctuation within that category.
In 2018, we monitored 55 meadow parcels in TM and 162 in PH. The number of species detected varied slightly compared to the previous year (higher in TM and lower in PH), but this difference was not significant.