The overall aim of the COST project is to explore the cost-effectiveness of two agri-environment schemes (AES) in preserving biodiversity, that rely on two different strategies to conserve biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. The first AES is organic farming, which bans the use of chemical pesticides and mineral fertilizers and thus can enhance biodiversity in the farmed area (land sharing: integration of biodiversity conservation objectives in the productive areas). The other AES is the maintenance of semi-natural permanent grasslands, which create biodiversity-rich areas in the crop mosaic (land sparing: segregation of biodiversity conservation from the productive areas). We will explore which strategy is the best for biodiversity conservation at the landscape scale and the type of species that benefit from such schemes (agricultural-bound species or rare endangered ones).
Another objective of this project is to explore the trade-offs between biodiversity conservation and agricultural production depending on the uptake of these two AES. For example, in case of synergy between biodiversity conservation and agricultural production (via a positive effect on wild organisms that provide yield-enhancing ecosystem services), taking land out of production (land sparing) or decreasing agricultural input (land sharing) might not necessarily decrease agricultural production in the landscapes due to a positive effect of biodiversity on crop yields.