Biodiversity in action: across farmland and the value chain
Agricultural biodiversity is understood to comprise all components of biological diversity that (i) are of relevance for food and agriculture and all components of biological diversity that (ii) constitute agro-ecosystems. It is the result of highly dynamic interactions between the environment, genetic resources, agricultural practices and historical land management. The various dimensions of agricultural biodiversity play a significant role in conferring stability, resilience and adaptability to farming systems. Below ground biodiversity for example plays a major role in soil nutrient and water cycling, nutrient uptake by plants and in the control of plant diseases. Genetic diversity within species is at the origin of plant development, adaptation to different environments (including climate) and a wide range of properties which cater for diverse needs. The native biodiversity on and around farms is associated with the provision of important ecosystem services beyond farm level.
The way farmers manage their land has immediate effects on domesticated and native biodiversity. Specialised, intensive agriculture has generally resulted in higher productivity at the expense of decreasing levels of biodiversity, partly due to a lack of incentives for farmers to safeguard biodiversity. Ambitions to make diversity a more integral part of farming are reflected in a number of European policies and global commitments. Translating these ambitions into practice will require the necessary know-how and a range of options for optimising the joint delivery of economic, environmental and social services by farming.
Activities will tackle biodiversity from various angles ranging from its supporting functions in agro-ecosystems (e.g. through activities of plant and soil biota), the integration of diversity into farming practices and incentives for wider biodiversity management including native biodiversity. Proposals will consider various temporal and spatial scales when assessing the dynamics of biodiversity and its relationship with farming systems, the surrounding landscapes and throughout value chains.
Proposals should address only one of the following sub-topics:
A.  Small organisms, big effects for plants- Belowground biodiversity interaction with plants (RIA)
Proposals will lay the ground for better understanding and applying the benefits of soil organisms for resource uptake, plant growth, development and health. Activities will explore the processes and interactions between plants and the different plant and soil micro and macro biota. Work will expand knowledge of the impacts of land management on soil biological dynamics and its ecological importance, e.g. for nutrient cycling processes, plant defence mechanisms (i.e. disease prevention/pest control), plant development and growth. Findings on the beneficial effects of functional soil biodiversity for crop production will feed into the development of strategies and tools for sustainable plant/soil management. Proposals should fall under the concept of the ‘multi-actor approach’ to ensure that knowledge and needs from various sectors including farming are brought together.
B.  Capitalising on native biodiversity in farmland landscape (RIA)
Proposals will enhance the understanding of the relationship between farm management and native biodiversity in the surrounding landscape, together with the associated ecosystem services. Activities will be developed at different scales and cover different habitats, as well as a diverse range of species (flora and fauna) from having beneficial to adverse effects on agriculture (i.e. from wild plants and wild pollinators to large carnivores). Work will consider both of the contrasting dynamics threatening farmland biodiversity (namely specialisation/intensification and marginalisation/abandonment).
Proposals will support the definition of biodiversity targets at the appropriate scale and design result-based incentives at policy and/or market level taking into account the current regulatory framework. Proposals will look at the synergies between increasing biodiversity awareness/acceptance by farmers and their involvement in the monitoring. They shall develop, test and scale-up existing and new biodiversity indicators taking into account the perspectives of stakeholders and provide integrated information platforms and improved methods.
Work shall build on existing initiatives, provide support for the setting-up of new networks that address biodiversity in farmland landscapes and liaise with relevant European Research Infrastructures such as ANAEE. Proposals should build on the system proposed for in-situ observatories ("Citizen Observatories") and the effective transfer of biodiversity knowledge to farming, research, policy and society. Proposals should fall under the concept of 'multi-actor approach' engaging key stakeholders and experts and ensuring adequate involvement of the farming sector in open source collaboration and data collection covering a wide range of agri-ecosystems. This will include enabling networking on similar issues across Europe. They should also seek contributions from social and economic sciences to cover the broader economic, social, behavioural and environmental issues. Proposals may involve financial support to third parties, particularly for supporting regional/local networks. The proposal will define the process of selecting entities for which financial support will be granted up to EUR 100.000 per party over the project duration.
C.  From agrobiodiversity to dynamic value chains
All scopes (A), (B): The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 7 million for A and 8 million for B would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts. Proposals should include a task to cluster with other projects financed under the same sub-topic.
Funded activities will showcase the benefits of agro-biodiversity at various levels and develop solutions and approaches to embed these benefits more effectively into farming practices and policy measures.
In the short to medium term work will
- expand the agro-ecological knowledge base on the links and dynamics between biodiversity and agricultural production;
- deliver best practices based on production systems (both conventional and organic) that combine support for biodiversity with value creation;
- result in improved methods and tools to assess, evaluate and monitor different levels of diversity (genetic, species and ecosystem) as well as the linkages between agro-biodiversity and ecosystem services;
- define operational biodiversity targets from the field to regional level;
- deliver strategies and tools for biodiversity focused soil management (scope A);
- reduce the dependence on external inputs in plant management through effective plant-soil interactions and the use of soil organisms (scope A);
- develop private and public incentives to foster farmer's delivery of biodiversity as a public good (scope B);
- generate news sets of harmonised data on native biodiversity in farmland landscapes and contribute to foster a European biodiversity platform and network involving farmers (scope B).
In the longer term funded activities will help to foster the synergies between agricultural production, biodiversity and the delivery of ecosystem services of local, regional and global relevance. They will allow the farming sector to continue fulfilling its multiple functions under more challenging biotic and abiotic conditions expected in the future, mostly as a result of climate change effects.
Delegation Exception Footnote:
It is expected that this topic will continue in 2020
Socio-economic science and humanities