This report summarises recent projects from the Natural England Agri-environment Evidence Programme.
Projects focussing on Agri-environment Scheme (AES) options or agreements assessed delivery of environmental, habitat specific and historic environment outcomes, with some including the role of advice and guidance for agreement holders. Studies showed examples of successful outcomes, but also of limited success. Recommendations focus on improving option design, implementation and uptake, and the central role of good quality advice and guidance is highlighted.
Projects considering scheme level delivery and design focussed on the effectiveness of AES in protecting landscape character, the delivery of Natural Capital and social benefits through the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund (CSFF) and the impacts of climate change on AES. AES are having positive effects on landscape character objectives and the CSFF approach effectively co-ordinates work to deliver landscape scale benefits. All studies highlighted the need to consider current and future impacts of climate change on AES delivery and the role AES might play in supporting farm and landscape level resilience.
An assessment of the role new and emerging technologies can play in AES monitoring concluded they will offer benefits when used alongside traditional monitoring techniques and emphasised that well designed monitoring programmes are crucial. Another study showed the importance of collecting datasets designed specifically to detect the effects of AES, finding that data from general citizen science schemes was of comparably limited utility for monitoring the effects of AES on birds and pollinating insects at local and landscape scales.