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Date: 01 May 2012

The effectiveness of integrated farm management, organic farming and agri-environment schemes for conserving biodiversity in temperate Europe - A systematic map

Abstract

Background

Agriculture is the dominant land use throughout much of Europe. Changes to farming practices have led to concerns about negative impacts on biodiversity, and current agricultural policy has an emphasis towards conservation. The objective of this study was to investigate and describe the nature and coverage of research pertaining to the effectiveness of integrated farm management, organic farming and agri-environment schemes as interventions for conserving biodiversity in temperate Europe.

Systematic mapping methodology was adapted from social sciences, and used to create a searchable database of relevant research.

Methods

Searches were made of 10 electronic databases containing peer reviewed journals, PhD theses, conference proceedings and organisational reports. Web searches for relevant research were also made. The title and abstracts of results were examined for relevance. Studies were included when published in English, when an intervention was applied to increase biodiversity or species diversity on farmland, and where there was a measured effect on study organism(s). Correlative and manipulative studies from temperate Europe were included. The research was incorporated into a searchable database (systematic map) and key wording used to describe, categorise and code studies.

Results

The searches identified 83,590 records. Following removal of duplicates and the application of inclusion criteria, 743 references were coded for the final systematic map database. Most of the studies reported were from Western Europe, particularly from the UK. Invertebrates were the most commonly studied organism followed by plants and birds, and field margins were the most commonly studied biotope.

Conclusions

The systematic map describes the scope of research on the topic. It can be used to inform future primary research, or research synthesis and evaluation methods such as systematic review. Areas for which there appear to be evidence gaps, and so may have potential for further primary research, are highlighted. They include the effectiveness of agri-environment options under different farming systems and in providing for amphibians and reptiles. Implications for the development of future systematic maps are discussed, including the question of how to incorporate study quality appraisal. The development of a Collaboration for Environmental Evidence systematic mapping methods group will address some of these issues.