Statement:  

27th September 2019, Dublin, Ireland.

Policy decisions over the next 12 months are crucial for Ireland's rural landscapes. The development of the Common Agricultural Policy Strategic Plan for Ireland presents a rare opportunity to deliver high quality food outcomes and enhance farm livelihoods by mitigating our climate and biodiversity crises.

 

CAP4Nature was produced by a group of independent scientists.

We propose six Key Principles for the CAP Strategic Plan, outline the evidence base underpinning them, and illustrate our thinking with tangible examples.

Principles: APPLYING KEY CONCEPTS

1. FARM FOR FOOD SECURITY

Biodiversity underpins the delivery of multiple ecosystem services that benefit society

Farming has the capacity to solve the climate and biodiversity crises that undermine food security. In doing so, we can enhance farmer livelihoods. By farming with nature, we secure a future for our children and the landscapes on which we depend. These landscapes provide priceless ecosystem services that are consistently undervalued. CAP should incentivise farming that produces high quality food and enhances habitats, sequesters carbon, improves water quality, maintains soil health and alleviates flooding. This kind of farming has the potential to deliver landscapes that improve our own health and wellbeing, and nourish generations to come.

2. NATURE HAS LIMITS

Global trends indicate we are facing a mass extinction, and Ireland is similarly affected

Over a million species are at risk of extinction globally. Priority Irish species and habitats are also threatened, in poor condition and declining. Declines in biodiversity impact on the critical ecosystem services provided to people. Nature can resist some threats and given the right circumstances can recover from impacts of intensive land-use, land-use change and pollution. However, nature is being pushed beyond its limits and some habitats may collapse entirely or require substantial investment for successful restoration. It is cheaper and more effective to keep what you have than pay to restore what you have lost.

3. QUANTITY, QUALITY & CONNECTIVITY MATTER

Ecosystem type, condition and extent determine the services that are delivered in any one area.

A particular ecosystem type, such as a blanket bog or semi-natural grassland, can vary from low to high quality. Quality is assessed as the diversity, richness and identity of species within the ecosystem, and consequent ability of that ecosystem to provide services.

High ecosystem quality depends on appropriate management. Landscape-scale connectivity increases habitat quality for species, and enhances the resilience of populations to threats. Monitoring of ecosystem quantity, quality and connectivity is essential to ensure expected outcomes are realised. Effective maintenance and enhancement of ecosystem quality needs to be evidence-based, and can also be incentivised by results-based payments.

4. ONE SIZE CAP DOESN'T FIT ALL

Targeted interventions are essential to ensure ecosystem service delivery across the Irish landscape.

We need local-level solutions for landscape-level challenges because the Irish agricultural landscape is diverse. These solutions should be informed by the best possible evidence and knowledge that is appropriate for the local environment. Good examples already exist - many have been co-created by farmers, advisors and scientists working together, and have been demonstrated across Ireland. For effective and efficient administration, a national framework is needed for implementation of local-level solutions throughout the country.

5. STRENGTHEN THE LINKS

The food system depends on links between people, producers and nature. Strengthening these links enhances benefits from nature and the reputation of Irish agricultural produce.

The reputation of agricultural produce depends on healthy, safe and environmentally sustainable production systems. Irish food production will be enhanced by setting ambitious and effective CAP objectives for nature. Robust verification of the healthy, safe and sustainable credentials of the food system should be underpinned by effective CAP instruments and measures that are evidence-based, appropriately incentivised and adequately monitored.

6. NATURE NEEDS LONG TERM BUT FLEXIBLE PLANNING

Support for the natural processes that deliver beneficial ecosystem services requires long term planning

Long-established ecosystems are generally of higher quality than newly established or recently restored ecosystems; thus, it is a priority to maintain existing high quality ecosystems. Long term land-use objectives, together with continuous CAP instruments and measures and reliable payments can incentivise commitment to maintain and improve ecosystems. Production systems are exposed to changeable social, economic and environmental forces and CAP measures need to be flexible to achieve objectives for ecosystem quality and service delivery.

 
 
 

Examples: PRINCIPLES IN PRACTICE

The following case studies illustrate how land use intensity within ecosystems affects ecosystem service delivery using a 'traffic light' assessment of  low ,  medium  and  high .

These assessments are evidence-based, but they are only comparable within a particular ecosystem. For example, medium water quality in the Cropland ecosystem is not comparable to medium water quality in a Grassland ecosystem. 

 

Furthermore, we assume that the most intensive land-use for each ecosystem is compliant with Good Agricultural & Environmental Condition as in CAP. Therefore, illegal stocking or extraction is not assessed.

CROPLAND

Cereals (Intensive)

Cereals (Conservation Agri)

  • Deep ploughing

  • Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides

  • No field margins

  • Annually trimmed box hedge

  • Maximum fertiliser use

  • Complies with GAEC

  • Minimum tillage

  • Minimal inputs (Decision Support Systems)

  • Integrated Pest Mgmt

  • Field margins

  • Tall, wide hedges, rotationally trimmed 3-5 years with tall trees

  • Legume-based multi-species cover crop, grazed by livestock

SERVICE COMPARISON
Cereals (Intensive)
Cereals (Conservation Agri)
FOOD
H
H
WATER QUALITY
M
H
SOIL
CARBON
M
H
WILDLIFE
L
M
SOIL HEALTH
L
M
PEST CONTROL
L
H
POLLINATORS
L
M

GRASSLAND

Intensive Grassland 

Semi-Natural Grassland

  • Reseeded on 7 to 10 year rotation

  • Post-emergence herbicide

  • Clover and Perennial Ryegrass

  • Derogation farm, 250kg inorganic N per hectare + 250kg organic N

  • 10 grazing rotations per year

  • Species-rich (>25 sp/m2)

  • Extensive grazing

  • Less than 1 livestock unit per hectare

  • Zero chemical inputs

SERVICE COMPARISON
FOOD
WATER QUALITY
SOIL
CARBON
WILDLIFE
SOIL HEALTH
POLLINATORS
LOW GHG EMISSIONS
INTENSIVE GRASSLAND
SEMI-NATURAL GRASSLAND
H
L
M
H
M
M
L
H
L
H
L
H
L
H

PEATLANDS & WET HEATHLAND MOSAIC

Agricultural Production

Very low intensity use

  • 0.15 livestock units per hectare

  • Not part of GLAS scheme

  • Old peat drainage systems

  • Heather-Molinia-Sphagnum mosaic 

  • Zero chemical inputs

  • No soil erosion

  • Compliant with Good Agricultural & Environmental Condition (GAEC)

  • Sphagnum moss & Heather

  • Grasses, sedges, herbs

  • Less than 0.05 livestock units per hectare

  • Zero chemical inputs

SERVICE COMPARISON
MAX AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION
MAX ECOLOGICAL CONDITION
FOOD
M
L
WATER QUALITY
M
H
SOIL
CARBON
M
H
WILDLIFE
M
H
SOIL HEALTH
M
H
POLLINATORS
M
H

FOREST

Sitka Spruce plantation

Native woodland

  • Sitka spruce monoculture, even-aged

  • 30-35 year clear felling rotation

  • Following best management practices

  • Gley soil

  • Access for recreational use

  • Native broadleaved species (oak)

  • Mature forest, self-regenerating

  • Deer management to ensure biodiversity

  • Access for recreational use

SERVICE COMPARISON
SITKA SPRUCE PLANTATION
NATIVE WOODLAND
TIMBER
H
L
WATER QUALITY
M
H
CARBON
STORAGE
M
H
WILDLIFE
L
H
FLOOD PROTECTION
CARBON REMOVAL
FROM ATM.
RECREATION
M
H
M
H
L
H
 

About Us: WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS

This workshop was funded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht as part of the 2019 'Seeds for Nature' initiative to provide independent advice to Government.

 ORGANISER 

Professor Yvonne Buckley

Trinity College Dublin

 

Dr Kate McAney

Vincent Wildlife Trust

Click here for Kate's introduction

to bat ecology

Dr Nicholas Duff

Birdwatch Ireland

Click here for Nick's introduction to the ecology of wading birds

Dr Tamara Hochstrasser

University College Dublin

Click here for Tamara's introduction

to urban/rural development

 ORGANISER 

Dr James Moran

Galway-Mayo IT

 

Click here for James' introduction to agri-environment schemes

Dr Tancredi Caruso

Queens University Belfast

 

Click here for Tancredi's

introduction to soil ecology

 ORGANISER 

Dr John Finn

Teagasc

Click here for John's introduction to farmland habitats

Dr Barry O'Donoghue

NPWS

 

Click here for Barry's observations on CAP

Dr Brendan Dunford

Burren Programme

 

Click here for Brendan's introduction to the ecology of limestone pavements

Dr Derek McLoughlin

Pearl Mussel Project

Click here for Derek's introduction to western peatlands and upland ecology

Dr Patrick McGurn

Aran LIFE

 

Click here for Patrick's introduction to species-rich grassland

Dr Mary Kelly-Quinn

University College Dublin

Click here for Mary's introduction to freshwater ecology

 COORDINATOR 

Professor John Quinn

University College Cork

 

Click here for John's introduction to bird conservation on farmland

Dr Dara Stanley

University College Dublin

Click here for Dara's introduction to insect and pollinator ecology

Hannah Hamilton

A New Leaf

 

Project Coordination & Web Design