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How to assess High Nature Value pastoral land at farm level?

A paper recently published in Ecological Indicators proposes the combining of three simple measures to provide a value, on a ten point scale, that indicates the nature value of pastoral farmland. The three measures are:

  1. Proportion of improved grassland
  2. Stocking density per hectare of Utilisable Agricultural Area (UAA)
  3. Length of linear habitats

This method to assess the level of HNV land at farm level offers an important advancement in the development of an overall indicator of areas of sustainable agriculture. The index was developed based on farms in counties Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim and tested on farms in east Galway, all located in the west of Ireland. However, the researchers from IT Sligo and NUI Galway (including two members of the IDEAL-HNV team) submit that the method could be applied to other systems in other European countries.

Member states have committed to identify, support, maintain and monitor areas of High Nature Value farming across the European Union. Following the Strategic Guidelines for Rural Development 2007-2013, which encouraged Member States to put in place measures for the preservation and development of high nature value farming, a guidance document was published to assist Member States with drawing up a monitoring framework for HNV farming.

The recent Rural Development regulation for 2014-2020 has reinforced the issue of HNV farming in a European context by including “restoring, preserving and enhancing biodiversity in areas of High Nature Farming” as one of the six priorities for Rural Development. However, progress to date on the development of HNV indicators has largely been based on a landscape scale.

Thus the interest of the aforementioned publication in Ecological Indicators, as it proposes a method that can be applied to identify nature value at farm level in a time efficient manner. According to the authors, the proposed index can be:

“used to highlight farms with low biodiversity allowing targeting of sustainability measures such as increasing field boundary area or reducing inorganic nitrogen inputs, farms that are already sustainable from a biodiversity perspective, and could be labelled as such through national programs or even farms that are High Nature Value (HNV) and should be targeted through results-based agri-environment schemes.”

Among the findings the paper concludes that given the opportunity to test the methods further, this approach could be modified for use in pastoral regions within the North Western Atlantic Biogeographic region in Europe and that it could aid individual farmers in how they manage biodiversity on their farms.

Read more on the work of EFNCP on high nature value farming.

HNV landscape in Ben Bulben

HNV landscape in Ben Bulben, Gleniff and Glenade Complex (Ireland)

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European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism
Date: 2020/07/10
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