Impact of EU Agri-environment policies on ecosystem functioning
Catherine’s DPhil focuses on assessing the effectiveness of EU agri-environment schemes in promoting ecosystem functioning and service delivery within agricultural landscapes. Agri-environment schemes have been incorporated into the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the EU in order to provide incentives for farmers to improve environmental management on their land and mitigate declines in farmland biodiversity. Farmers are paid to to adopt more environmentally friendly land management practices, involving, for example, the creation of ecological focus areas on their land, hedgerow restoration, organic farming etc (European Commision, 2013).
Catherine has set up a network of 20 different farms around Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the Cotswold’s, representing a range of different agricultural management options. At one end of the spectrum farms under no agri-environment scheme which are very intensively farmed with high pesticide and herbicide input right up to farms showcasing Higher Level Stewardship options with multiple interventions to benefit wildlife (both organic and non-organic). On each farm solitary bee populations are monitored using trap nests (15 nests are set up on each farm). The female bees lay eggs inside the nests and species diversity and population sizes are estimated for each farm. Pollen is also extracted from the nests to construct pollination networks for each bee species (for each farm). Bee species diversity, population size and the structure of their pollination networks are then compared across farms to investigate the influence of the different agricultural management practices on the bees and their provision of pollination services.