Improving freshwater biodiversity on agricultural land

Helen Greaves, UCL Geography

Over 70% of the land in the UK is used for agriculture. We often hear about the value of biodiversity and wildlife for farming and for our country in general, but there is always a compromise between the amount of crops that can be produced and the amount of land that should be set aside for wildflowers and farmland wildlife.

In Britain, two large areas of lowland England have the potential to harbour large reserves of biodiversity in intensive agricultural land without affecting the productivity of the farmland surrounding it. Farmland in North Norfolk and the North-west of England contain very large numbers of ponds likely to have been dug out to collect clay to be spread on the field in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, because this habitat is no longer used, many farmland ponds become overgrown and stagnant: trees block out light and dry out the green lifeless water below.

The research group Helen works in aims to provide evidence of the value of historical agricultural ponds when managed for biodiversity, such as for plants, insects and invertebrates.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform now occurring across Europe has introduced a ‘green payment’ scheme prioritising ‘restoring, preserving and enhancing ecosystems related to agriculture and forestry’. It also has a new focus of supporting young farmers to develop and improve their businesses.

This project acknowledges these changes in the CAP and aims to connect young farmers with scientists and researchers, as well as representatives from environmental organisations to improve the communication of knowledge on the subject of farmland biodiversity.

It is hoped that the project will inform land-owners of this potential wildlife biodiversity hotspot on their land and empower young farmers to make informed choices about farmland management including wildlife-friendly farming practices, benefiting generations to come.

Page last modified on 29 jul 14 17:32