The Farmer Cluster approach for effective agroecology: a standardised protocol for measuring farmland biodiversity outcomes at the landscape-scale across Europe

Rachel Nichols, Lisette Cantú-Salazar, Sarah Vray, Youri Martin, Douglas Warner, John Tzilivakis, John M. Holland, Graham Begg, Niamh McHugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Farmer Clusters are an English initiative where groups of neighbouring farmers have identified and instigated their own biodiversity targets as a collective, providing a ‘bottom-up’ alternative to the ‘top-down,’ government initiated agri-environment schemes. FRAMEwork (Farmer clusters for Realising Agrobiodiversity Management across Ecosystem), an EU Horizons 2020 project, aims to identify whether Farmer Clusters could improve farmland biodiversity at the landscape-scale. The aim of this paper is to describe the different strategies used to establish eleven Farmer Clusters across ten European countries and the methods applied to monitor their farmland biodiversity at the landscape-scale. Once relevant landscape-scale biodiversity indicators were identified, the protocol was assembled. It describes how to select appropriate survey squares and transects in different farming systems and European landscapes that are representative of the different farmland habitats. The monitoring protocol also describes how to conduct biodiversity surveys of birds, bumblebees, butterflies, additional insect pollinators, and vegetation within these survey squares. The methods comprise a combination of well-document procedures, presented as a single, standardised protocol that can be replicated in different farming systems throughout Europe. A hypothetical case study is also presented, demonstrating how the methods produce results that can be amalgamated, contributing towards a multi-taxa, community-level, landscape-scale biodiversity analysis. The Farmer Clusters were successfully established, whilst the issues faced and amendments made during the process are described to provide future researchers with a ‘troubleshooting’ guide alongside the protocols. The application of these methods within the wider realm of farmland biodiversity conservation and agri-environment schemes is discussed, and through FRAMEwork, these methods will be used to assess the effectiveness of Farmer Clusters at improving biodiversity across the landscape.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS ONE
Publication statusIn preparation - 14 May 2024

Keywords

  • agroecology
  • biodiversity
  • farmland

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