Reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have resulted in changes to the way in which agri-environment funding is distributed. Under the Rural Development Programme (RDP), funding for farming, environmental measures and rural development will be covered by the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). This will consist of a basic payment, a greening payment and an additional payment for young farmers (Defra, 2014). However, the scheme will not be open to all farmers, with around half the previous coverage of Entry Level Stewardship (ELS).
This feasibility study, which was undertaken as part of the EU INTERREG IVA funded Value of Working Wetlands (WOW) project, aimed to map out, and take the first practical steps towards, the creation of innovative revenue frameworks which allow land managers to achieve economic sustainability while maintaining wet habitats. The study investigated areas likely to attract the highest level of agri-environment subsidy available, as well as those where funding might decrease in the future. Habitat diversity and land ownership, as well as the likely availability of funding sources also needed to be considered.
Two baselines were developed to enable ongoing changes to funding availability within the Brue Valley Living Landscape (BVLL) to be taken into account. These are the ‘Current (snapshot) baseline’ and the ‘Decreased funding baseline’. The latter is based on the likely decrease in funding availability due to changes to agri-environment payments and the general ‘austerity’ squeeze on public spending.
Seven land and water management scenarios were developed taking account of the types of land and water management actions which could be implemented within the BVLL. The scenarios focus on different types of ecosystem service. For example, the ‘Nature tourism’ scenario aims to enhance biodiversity and cultural services, whilst the ‘Maintaining and improving the conveyance of water’ scenario is aimed at enabling provisioning services to be optimised.
Possible funding sources were identified for all of the scenarios, thus ensuring that each scenario could potentially be implemented (subject to land manager engagement and agreement). The study also identified potential actions for each of the funding sources to enable the objectives to be met and the funds to be claimed.
This study identified that there are funds available to implement a range of land and water management scenarios in wetland areas within the BVLL, the wider UK, and France. Some of these scenarios could result in improved ecosystem service provision when compared with the present. However, prior to the implementation of any of the scenarios, further work needs to be undertaken to investigate the potential funding sources in more detail, and importantly, the acceptability and viability of the scenarios to those who live and work in wetland areas. Engagement with land managers and other stakeholders is vital when trying to determine the optimum scenario in terms of balanced ecosystem service provision, feasibility and in working out which stakeholders will gain, and which will lose due to changes in land management.