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Boyle P.,Center for Environmental Research Innovation and Sustainability | Hayes M.,National University of Ireland | Gormally M.,National University of Ireland | Sullivan C.,Center for Environmental Research Innovation and Sustainability | Moran J.,Center for Environmental Research Innovation and Sustainability
Ecological Indicators | Year: 2015

Sustainable agriculture is important for the safeguarding of natural resources (e.g. semi-natural habitats, clean water and energy), food production and for the survival of rural communities. As part of the EU strategy towards sustainability Member States are committed to identifying and protecting areas of agrobiodiversity. Identification of the extent and support of High Nature Value (HNV) farmland across the EU was an important policy requirement of Member States Rural Development Programmes (RDP) (2007-2013) but problems defining the extent of HNV farmland have delayed progress to date. Following a five step statistical process, we developed a simple 10 point nature value index based on percentage improved agricultural grassland, stocking density (LU/ha Utilisable Agricultural Area) and length of linear habitats per hectare on a farm. We propose an index that can be used to highlight farms with low biodiversity allowing targeting of sustainability measures such as increasing field boundary area or reducing inorganic Nitrogen inputs, farms that are already sustainable from a biodiversity perspective, and could be labelled as such through national programs or even farms that are High Nature Value (HNV) and should be targeted through results-based agri-environment schemes. This nature value index has potential to be applied to a range of farmed pastoral landscapes in North West Europe's Atlantic biogeographic region. The methodology used in the development of the index has the potential to be used in other biogeographic zones to develop similar indices of nature value at farm level. This index is a simple to use, easily accessible identification tool based on farm-level data which can be utilised in sustainability indices and HNV farmland identification. ©2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Source

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