Agri-environment schemes can significantly increase local bird and butterfly populations without damaging food production without damaging food production, a long-term UKCEH research project has found. John Redhead was interviewed this morning on BBC Radio 4's Farming Today about the findings of the project.
UKCEH scientists spent 10 years intensively monitoring the impacts of a large-scale Defra-funded experiment at Hillesden, a 1,000-hectare commercial arable farm in Buckinghamshire. Beginning in 2005, this involved creating several wildlife habitats, including seed-bearing plants for birds, wildflowers for pollinators and tussocky grass margins to support a range of birds, insects and small mammals.
The experiment assessed the effectiveness of these agri-environmental measures in reducing biodiversity losses caused by the intensification of UK farming practices since the Second World War, including declines in species that are essential for agricultural production such as pollinators and predators of crop pests.
They concluded that the numbers of the majority of species did better at Hillesden than in other comparable farmed landscapes without agri-environment measures over the same timeframes. There were increases of a third across populations of all bird species between 2006 and 2016, compared to an average of just under 13 per cent at other monitored sites, and 40 per cent among all butterflies 2009-2017, compared to 21 per cent elsewhere.