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.

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:


Number of positive indicator plants:
5-10 10-15 15-20
10 mark 20 marks 30 marks
Cover of positive indicator plants:
low medium high
10 mark 20 marks 30 marks
Number and cover of NEGATIVE indicator plants:
high medium low
-10 marks 0 marks 10 mark

 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:


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
Rush cover:
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

Sample scorecards

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.

…more on the way very soon…

See also measure handbooks for species-rich grassland, species-rich floodplain meadows and HNV perennial crops available on our documents page (