Results-based agri-environmental payment schemes (RBAPS) and their role in future sustainability of HNV farmland

Authors and Affiliations: 

Byrne, D.1, Alzaga, V.3, Astrain, C.3, Beaufoy, G.2, Berastegi, A.3, Bleasdale, A.4, Clavería, V.3, Donaghy, A.5, Finney, K.5, Kelly, S.5, Iragui, U. 3, Jones, G.2, McLoughlin, D.2, Moran, J.1, Lopez, F. 3, Maher, C.2, O'Donoghue, B.4 and Torres, J.3.

1Institute of Technology Sligo, Ash Lane, Sligo, Ireland; 2European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism, c/o Gwyn Jones, Penygraig, Llanfair Clydogau, Lampeter, SA48 8LJ, UK; 3Gestiόn Ambiental de Navarra, Padre Adoain, 219 under 31015 Pamplona (Navarra) T 848 420 700 - F 848 420 753, Spain; 4National Parks and Wildlife Service, Custom House, Galway, Ireland; 5BirdWatch Ireland, Crank House, Banagher, Co, Offaly, Ireland

Corresponding author: 
Dolores Byrne

Maintaining extensive farming practices which sustain HNV farmland and associated habitats and wildlife is essential to halt biodiversity declines. Enhanced spatial targeting of agri-environment schemes could incentivise production of environmental goods where they can be optimally delivered (Ekroos et al. 2014). The results-based approach links payment to the quality of the environment and biodiversity produced on farmland e.g. as in the Burren Farming for Conservation scheme where farmers are paid to produce species-rich grassland. To progress understanding of such schemes, the EU has funded the 4-year RBAPS pilot in Ireland and Spain, along with sister pilots in Romania and the UK. In Ireland and Spain, RBAPS is developing and testing delivery of biodiversity targets primarily associated with grasslands in HNV farmland. The three pilot locations chosen offer contrasting farming methods, climate and socio-economic conditions. The selected biodiversity targets are species-rich grasslands and Marsh Fritillary grassland habitat in County Leitrim, Ireland; breeding waders and flooded hay meadow in the Shannon Callows, Ireland; and mosaic habitat in arable and perennial cropland typical of the Mediterranean region of Navarra, Spain. Robust result indicators have been identified and trialed by scientists, farm advisors and farmers. Indicators include number and cover of positive indicator plants, vegetation structure and specific habitat requirements for target species. Participating farmers are provided with advice on how to achieve the best environmental quality they can, but they are free to choose the delivery mechanism suited to their farming conditions. Farmers have indicated the scheme is intuitive in its approach, including equating financial reward to quality of environmental outcomes and impacts. Contribution of results-based schemes to the socio-economics of RBAPS farms is being explored, with preliminary analysis showing the importance of agri-environment supports to farm incomes. Well-designed results-based schemes have potential to be an effective tool in efforts to safeguard the sustainable future of HNV farmland and environmental goods they provide.


Ekroos, J., Olsson, O., Rundlöf, M., Wätzold, F., Smith, H. G. (2014). Optimizing agri-environment schemes for biodiversity, ecosystem services or both. Biological Conservation, 172:6571.

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