Agri-environment schemes and their contribution to the conservation of biodiversity in England

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SUMMARY

Agri-environment schemes were first launched in England in 1987. A number of schemes are now operated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that invite farmers and landowners to enter formal agreements to change their management practices in order to achieve a range of nature, landscape and archaeological conservation objectives. Agreements are based on payments to compensate for loss of income incurred by adopting less intensive, low-input practices that offer potential benefits for biodiversity conservation within agricultural landscapes. The UK Government's response to the Convention on Biological Diversity has included producing a list of priority species and habitats for conservation action. Each of these has its own detailed action plan, including time-limited targets. A significant proportion of these targets can at least in part be met through the agri-environment schemes; the way this is being done is illustrated through examples of lowland heathland and a bird, the cirl bunting Emberiza cirlus. Linking of biodiversity and agri-environment objectives is an important step towards achieving a more sustainable agriculture.

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