Recent PhD studies at the Institute of Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen's University Belfast have asked whether agri-environment schemes are effective in maintaining and enhancing farm biodiversity.
Upland grassland agri‐environment schemes in the Antrim Hills changed soil organisms boosting (Oribatid) mite and reducing springtail (Collembola) numbers. Both are detritivores associated with decomposition of leaf litter so changes in their numbers has the potential to change their ecological function impacting soils:
Agri-Environment Scheme management increased flying insect biodiversity by 5% mostly affecting detritivores (like fungus gnats) and predators (like adult house flies, dung flies and long-legged fly):
Ponds installed in grassland as part of agri-environment scheme measures differ from natural ponds in many key respects (for example, size, depth etc.) but despite not replicating natural environments they have higher aquatic and terrestrial invertebrate richness and abundance meaning they are of high conservation value in the farmed landscape:
Research like this is essential in evaluating Agri-Environment Scheme measures ensuring we can focus on results-based approaches that maintain and enhance wildlife tackling the current biodiversity crisis.
These projects were supervised by Dr Neil Reid, Senior Lecturer in Conservation Biology at Queen's University Belfast whose research interests include farming and biodiversity from hedgerows and carbon to badgers and bovine tuberculosis by way of grassland insects, birds and mammals. [Read more here]
I would also love to volunteer my farm for field work. I’m trying to encourage more dung beetles, our numbers are tiny
Thanks Neil. Very happy to support any student fieldwork here too. Currently monitoring a very large population of leatherjackets and new Zealand flatworm! But trying to set management up for a thriving dung beetle pop. Good newt population in the farm pond this year. Never been in any agrienv schemes here but hope to get into EFS this year.
Very interesting work @Neil Reid . If you ever need a farm for fieldwork I'd love to know more about our creepy crawlies. Interested in the work on badgers too - we have several setts but thankfully never had any TB - they seem to keep themselves to themselves in the wilder areas where the cattle don't go.