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This project will identify and outline the evidence base for novel, cost-effective measures to protect and enhance farmland biodiversity, which underpin our production systems. The identification, evaluation and dissemination of effective agri-environmental measures to conserve and enhance biodiversity, is an essential element of our vision for sustainable agricultural systems. Incorporation of such measures can provide very important and much needed evidence that Irish farmers and retailers deliver on Ireland’s ‘clean, green’ image, a priorities within the national strategy for agriculture i.e. Food Harvest 2020, Food Wise 2025 (DAFM) and ‘Origin Green’ (Bord Bia).

The agri-food industry makes a significant contribution to the Irish economy, the value of exports from the sector in 2014 estimated at over €10.5billion, with gross agricultural output valued at over €7 billion. There are approximately 140,000 family farms in Ireland, with the sector being a significant employer in rural Ireland IFFPA (2012). A sustainable agricultural sector is required in order to ensure the viability of the sector and this project can play a significant role in ensuring the sustainability of Irish agri-systems.

The proposed study will provide information to policy-makers on the cost-effectiveness of new measures and approaches to protect and enhance biodiversity on agri-ecosystems. Results derived from this proposal will facilitate policy-makers in decision-making in the design of future iterations of agri-environmental policy (e.g. agri-environment schemes such as GLAS, or management of Ecological Focus Areas in the CAP). The cost-benefit analysis and the modelling of the spatial extent of ecosystem benefits will help maximise large scale benefits and avoid costly measures where they are not likely to yield benefits. Ultimately the proposal will help fulfil obligations under national and international legislation in relation to protecting and enhancing biodiversity in food production and harvesting systems. (e.g. Bird Directive, Habitats Directive, Biodiversity 2020).