The High Nature Value farmland indicator in Germany
The high nature value (HNV) farmland indicator is one of 35 indicators that incorporate environmental concerns into the EU Common Agricultural Policy. It is an ‘objective-related’ baseline indicator under the EAFRD Implementing Regulation ( Regulation No 1974/2006/EC, Annex VIII), where it is defined as one of three biodiversity indicators in Axis 2 (Improving the Environment and the Countryside). Data collated for it can also be used for the impact indicator defined as baseline indicator 5 in the same regulation, and in analyses on agriculture and nature conservation. The indicator is also included in the indicator set for the German National Strategy on Biological Diversity.
As an objective-related baseline indicator, the HNV farmland indicator must be reported to the EU by all member states under Regulation No 1698/2005/EC (the EAFRD Regulation). At national level in Germany, it is one of the reporting requirements for the National Strategy on Biological Diversity. By agreement between the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV), the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) and the German Länder, the indicator is developed and coordinated by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN).
HNV farmland has been identified at EU level by pooling CORINE Land Cover, agroeconomic, Natura 2000 and Important Bird Area data. However, the EU-level distribution of HNV farmland does not match its national-level distribution in Germany (or indeed in other member states), for example because it leaves out small areas (under 25 ha) and near-natural grassland accounting for a large share of the total (see Paracchini et al. 2008). A country-specific approach therefore had to be developed for the baseline index in Germany.
Development and implementation
Development of the HNV farmland indicator for Germany started with a research and development project in which nationally available data sets on habitats and habitat types under the Habitats Directive were identified and compared with data needed for the indicator. The available data sets proved too disparate and incomplete for use in compiling the indicator for Germany. The data had various gaps – failing to cover relevant habitat types such as species-rich arable land and traditionally used orchards – and are gathered too infrequently for regular updating of the index. The research and development project therefore went on to develop a new approach for identifying and monitoring HNV farmland.
The German government and Länder agreed on a uniform methodology for compiling the indicator. Data for the HNV farmland indicator are gathered in field surveys, using some 900 sample plots throughout Germany each covering one kilometre square and comprising at least five percent open countryside. The sample design is the same as that already used for many years by the Federation of German Avifaunists (DDA) in monitoring common species of breeding birds.
The BfN developed the survey design for the initial survey of HNV farmland in consultation with the German Länder. The survey was carried out jointly by the German government and the Länder in 2009 and coordinated by the BfN ( R&D project FKZ 3508 89 0400, pdf-file, 6,6 MB). Survey instructions defined the open countryside structures used in compiling the indicator, such as grassland, vineyards, arable land and landscape elements. The nature value of grassland and arable land was measured against lists of indicator species; in the case of grassland, different lists were used in different regions to reflect geographical variation in species distribution. Areas covered by Habitats Directive habitat types and habitats protected by law are automatically included if they constitute open countryside habitats on farmland.
The identified HNV farmland structures were assigned nature values on a scale.
Nature value levels for HNV farmland elements in Germany
HNV I: Exceptionally high nature value
HNV II: Very high nature value
HNV III: Moderately high nature value
The German Länder contracted out the surveying of sample plots in 2009 to experienced field ecologists, only in Schleswig-Holstein the survey took place in 2010. All involved in the initial survey were offered to take prior training on identifying HNV farmland structures. This ensured uniform application of the scale nationwide. The survey took place from May to the end of September. The data were digitised, centrally collated, quality controlled and then used to extrapolate the HNV farmland indicator.
First survey results and future surveys
HNV farmland was found to account for 13.0 percent* of total farmland in Germany. This total was unequally distributed with regard to the nature value:
I: Exceptionally high nature value, 2.1%*
II: Very high nature value, 4.5%*
III: Moderately high nature value, 6.3%*
(*Differences due to rounding)
Future surveys will be carried out by the German Länder themselves. Some will survey a quarter of sampling plots each year while others will cover half of the sampling plots every two years. This means full regional and nationwide coverage is achieved after four years.
Regular surveying of sampling plots will make it possible to establish nationwide monitoring of open countryside that identifies both areas of special nature value and areas with potential for improvement on the HNV scale.
All ongoing activities are supported by a federal-Länder committee that meets once a year to exchange experience and discuss methodological problems as they arise. Coordination remains with BfN, including quality control. BfN collates the Länder data and compiles the national indicator at the end of each survey cycle.