A new JRC Technical Report explores the potential impact of the implementation of Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) on the environment.
An Ecological Focus Area (EFA) is an area of land subjected to agricultural practices that are beneficial for the climate and the environment. According to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), farmers with more than 15 ha of arable land must ensure that at least 5% of this land is an EFA. This obligation was introduced as part of the CAP reform in 2013 to safeguard and improve biodiversity on farms.
EFAs can be features such as fallow land, field margins, hedges, trees, buffer strips and land sown with catch crops (fast-growing crops planted in the space between two main crops or when no main crops are being grown) or nitrogen-fixing crops.
The JRC study applies the EFA calculator (a modelling tool based on scientific literature and developed by the University of Hertfordshire with the coordination of the JRC) to calculate the potential effects of EFA implementation at a regional level in the EU, reflecting the different kinds of EFAs and their agronomic context. It based its calculations on data reported by the EU Member States in 2015.
The study suggests that EFAs are most potentially beneficial for biodiversity in regions predominantly characterised by landscape features (more than 50% of the EFAs reported). Leaving land fallow was also found to have a positive impact on biodiversity. Some EFA types were found to be beneficial for specific ecosystem services (e.g. catch crops help improve the chemical condition of freshwaters), and appropriate management practices can increase the environmental effects of EFA (e.g. sowing wildflowers on land laying fallow could foster biodiversity and pollination).
By combining results obtained with the EFA calculator with information from other sources (such as the presence of semi-natural vegetation), it is possible to highlight areas where the implementation of EFAs is potentially most effective.
This JRC study significantly contributed to the Commission Report to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of the EFA (COM(2017) 152 final) published on 29 March 2017, which will be presented to Ministers at the next Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting on 3 April 2017.
- Using the Ecological Focus Area (EFA) calculator to assess the potential impact of EFA implementation on biodiversity and ecosystem services
- The EFA calculator - A software tool to support farmers decisions on Ecological Focus Area
- REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL on the implementation of the ecological focus area obligation under the green direct payment scheme (COM(2017) 152 final)
- COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT Accompanying the document REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL on the implementation of the ecological focus area obligation under the direct payment scheme (SWD(2017) 121 final)
- European Commission News: Ecological focus areas show potential for helping biodiversity
- Guidance and tool to support farmers in making informed decisions on Ecological Focus Areas
- Publication date
- 30 March 2017