SR8 Impacts of vegetated strips in and around agricultural fields

Vegetated strips (permanently vegetated land within or around agricultural fields) are used to reduce the impacts of intensive farming activities in a variety of ways: for example, by providing habitats for organisms, and by intercepting pesticides and nutrients as they leave fields in surface and ground water. A large volume of research exists regarding the use and efficacy of vegetated strips, and in 2015 EviEM began a systematic map on the topic.

Review status

Background

Intensification of agriculture over recent decades has caused a severe decline of biodiversity in agricultural landscapes across Western Europe. The establishment of permanently vegetated strips around agricultural fields to reduce the environmental impact from intensive agriculture, especially on water-courses, is a common intervention across the region: these strips are important components of agri-environment schemes in the UK, Germany and Switzerland. They are established for a number of reasons, including: to promote biodiversity; to minimise runoff of pesticides; to prevent the loss of soil from farmland; and to reduce the leaching of nutrients.

The range of different vegetated strips within and around agricultural fields, including; hedgerows, wildflower strips, beetlebanks, grassy borders, woody vegetated strips and forest margins. Illustration: Gunilla Hagström.

The range of different vegetated strips within and around agricultural fields, including; hedgerows, wildflower strips, beetlebanks, grassy borders, woody vegetated strips and forest margins. Illustration: Gunilla Hagström.

In Sweden, some 11,000 hectares of farmland is set aside as vegetated strips, but this has the potential to reach 100,000 hectares under future environmental protection plans. From 2011, vegetated strips (buffer strips) are mandatory along river courses where certain pesticides are used.

Buffer strips between farmland and watercourses can help conserve biodiversity and intercept pesticides and nutrients. Photo: Olle Kvarnbäck.

Buffer strips between farmland and watercourses can help conserve biodiversity and intercept pesticides and nutrients. Photo: Olle Kvarnbäck.

The review

Although a common intervention in agricultural landscapes, to-date no comprehensive catalogue of all studies investigating vegetated strips has been undertaken. As such, an in-depth understanding of the evidence relating to vegetated strips is needed.

Stakeholders have highlighted that several key questions remain regarding vegetated strips: whether higher abundances of different pollinators or predators in strips also lead (i) to increased pollination/biological control in surrounding fields, (ii) increased biodiversity also at the landscape scale and not only a redistribution of species and individuals within the landscape. Furthermore, stakeholders also sought information on how vegetated strips should be created and managed to meet their multiple goals (ecosystem services, biodiversity conservation, counteracting fertiliser runoff, minimising soil erosion, and restricting pesticide drift).

Our project aims to undertake comprehensive searches for studies investigating the impact and efficacy of vegetated strips in and around boreo-temperate farmland. All studies examining the effect of vegetated strips on a broad range of outcomes, including terrestrial biodiversity, soil erosion and drift, pesticide drift, and nutrient runoff, will be catalogued and described in a systematic map database.

Review team

Sönke Eggers (Chair), Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
Colin Brown
, Environment Department, University of York, the UK
Brian Kronvang
, National Environmental Research Institute, University of Aarhus, Denmark
Jaana Uusi-Kämppä
, Natural Resources Institute Finland, Jokioinen, Finland
Jonas Josefsson
Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
Nicola Randall, Centre for Evidence-Based Agriculture, Harper Adams University, the UK
Neal Haddaway (Project manager), EviEM, Stockholm, Sweden

First meeting of the review team in Novbember 2015. From left: Neal Haddaway, Brian Kronvang, Sönke Eggers, Jonas Josefsson, Colin Brown och Jaana Uusi-Kämppä. Nicola Randall is not pictured. Photo: Sif Johansson

First meeting of the review team in Novbember 2015. From left: Neal Haddaway, Brian Kronvang, Sönke Eggers, Jonas Josefsson, Colin Brown och Jaana Uusi-Kämppä. Nicola Randall is not pictured. Photo: Sif Johansson