Scorecards and scoring guidance
In results-based payments farmers lands are assessed and given a quality score, which reflects the condition of the biodiversity on that land and determines the level of payments made to the farmer. Each scorecard is comprised of results indicators which are surrogates for measuring the actual biodiversity and just as each biodiversity target (e.g. habitat or species) must respond to agricultural practices so must the result indicators. Result indicators must also be fair to the farmer in so far as they do not respond to changes outside the influence of his/her agricultural practices. Result indicators must be easily understood by farmers, farm advisors, ecologists and auditors following a short training session.
Scoring guidance enable the user to carry out the field based assessment of quality and are designed to act as a support tool for the indoor and field-based training in the use of the relevant scorecard. Scoring guidelines explain each result indicator thoroughly and describe the various levels of achievement for each indicator on a scale of good to bad.
Developing result indicators
Each result indicator is comprised of categories (e.g. on a scale of good to bad) which reflect the extent to which each individual result indicator is achieved; a certain threshold must be achieved to attain each category.
Current ecological quality
Primarily the function of result indicators is to reflect the quality and condition of the biodiversity and positive indicator plants are an excellent surrogate for measuring habitat (plant community) quality. The higher the number and cover of positive indicator plants the higher the marks and the payment to the farmer. Three simplified example result indicators that may be used for assessing the current habitat quality are provided on the table below:
CURRENT ECOLOGICAL INTEGRITY
|Number of positive indicator plants:|
|10 mark||20 marks||30 marks|
|Cover of positive indicator plants:|
|10 mark||20 marks||30 marks|
|Number and cover of NEGATIVE indicator plants:|
|-10 marks||0 marks||10 marks|
Often a good place to start when selecting positive indicator plants are national (or regional) Annex I habitat assessments for Article 17 reporting. These positive indicator plants need to be refined to eliminate those that are too small (i.e. mosses) or difficult to identify, or plants which may be confused with non-positive indicator species. Species which look similar are best grouped together (provided they are all positive indicators), e.g. all orchid species. Additional positive indicator species may also need to be added to ensure a range of quality is represented, i.e. positive indicators for HNV grasslands. See the sample scorecards below for more information on selecting positive indicator plants. The cover of positive indicator plants is also important.
Threats and future prospects
Along with evaluating the current ecological integrity it is also prudent to assess any activity that may impact on the future delivery of the biodiversity target. Two simplified examples of results indicators for future prospects (and possible categories for these) are given on the table below:
THREATS AND FUTURE PROSPECTS
|Current level of management:|
|Too low (no signs of grazing and/or mowing)||Optimum||Too high (bare ground)|
|-10 marks||20 marks||-20 marks|
|Are there any damaging activities:|
|High level of damage||Some damaging activity||None|
|-40 marks||-20 marks||0 marks|
Structure of the vegetation
When the biodiversity target is a species (or species group) as well as evaluating its habitat condition the suitability of the structure of the vegetation should also be assessed. Two simplified example of result indicators for assessing vegetation structure for ground nesting wader birds are provided below:
|Vegetation length and structure:|
|Too short (no tussocks present for cover)||Optimum (ankle length with some tussocks)||Too long (difficult for chicks to move)|
|-20 marks||20 marks||-10 marks|
|High (lots of dense rush)||Medium (some dense rush, or a lot of sparse rush||Optimum (none, or few sparse tussocks)|
|-20 marks||20 marks||30 marks|
A number of scorecards have been developed under the RBAPS Ireland and Spain project, including:
Irish uplands (peatland and heathland) Scorecard
A draft scorecard for Irish uplands (peatland and heathland) was developed as part of the RBAPS project. Read about the development of a draft draft peatlands and heathland scorecard here, and download the draft peatland scorecard here.
Species-rich floodplain meadows Scorecard
A scorecard for species-rich floodplain meadows, including mosaics of three Annex I habitats (Lowland hay meadows, Molinia meadows and Hydrophilous tall herb), was developed during the RBAPS project. The scorecard is comprised of six result indicators: four of which assess the ecological integrity (and species composition) and two which assess threats and future prospects. [Download the scorecard here in Excel].
Scoring guidance which enable the user to carry out the field based assessment of quality. of species-rich floodplain meadows is available here:
Species-rich grassland scorecard (North west Ireland)
The scorecard for species-rich grasslands (SRG) assess a range of High Nature Value (HNV) grasslands across varying soil types and of varying quality. The scorecard is comprised of nine result indicators: three of which assess the ecological integrity (and species composition) and six which assess threats and future prospects. As the biodiversity target for this measure is wider grassland biodiversity the scorecard assess the quality of the habitat for plants (using positive indicator plants), invertebrates and birds (using indicators of vegetation structure). [Download the species-rich grassland scorecard here].
Marsh Fritillary butterfly habitat scorecard
Marsh fritillary butterfly occurs on a subset of species-rich grasslands in the north west of Ireland and occupies mosaic habitats of grassland and heathland. The scorecard for species-rich grassland was modified slightly to tailor for the needs of the butterfly. As with the SRG scorecard, the marsh fritillary scorecard is comprised of nine result indicators: three of which assess the ecological integrity (and species composition) and six which assess threats and future prospects. This scorecard assess both the quality of the habitat for wider biodiversity (including plants, invertebrates and birds) and also assess the suitability of the habitat for the butterfly. [Download the scorecard for Marsh fritillary habitat here].
Breeding Wader Habitat Scorecard
Under the RBAPS project the results-based payment for breeding waders is based on the suitability of the habitat for the target species. Seven result indicators are used in the assessment of the habitat suitability, four of which relate to the sward height and vegetation structure (tussock cover, rush cover), one which relates to the provision of wet features and two which relate to cover of scrub and predator habitat. [Download the Breeding Wader Habitat Scorecard here].
HNV perennial crop mosaic of Navarra
Eight indicators are used to assess the biodiversity of the high nature value (HNV) perennial crop mosaic in the upland Mediterranean landscape of Navarra. FOur result indicators relate to the maintenance and quality of the herbaceous cover below the crops and two result indicators assess the condition of built structures including dry stone walls and huts. [Download the scorecard for the assessment of HNV perennial crop mosaic here].
Additional supporting documents
Each measure is accompanied with Best Practice Management Guidelines which provide farmers with management advice on producing the highest quality biodiversity output.
See also Measure Handbooks for each of the measures described above; available on our documents page (www.rbaps.eu/documents).