Research & results

Agriculture

In agricultural areas, a number of typical arable and pasture species are continuing to decline, despite all the measures that have been taken. We only know about a small proportion of the biodiversity in our agricultural areas. Europe requires us to monitor and report on that biodiversity. INBO regularly receives parliamentary questions and requests for advice on possible policy options and on policy follow-up.

  • INBO reports on the status and trend of biodiversity and ecosystem services in agricultural areas. It does so on the basis of existing measurement networks and indicators and by estimating the biological value of the agricultural ecosystem using the Biological Assessment Map (BWK). We optimise existing indicators and develop new ones, such as a multi-species indicator, a ‘minor landscape features’ indicator and an indicator on the ‘potential delivery of ecosystem services by the agricultural ecosystem’.
  • Good insect and soil biodiversity is essential for food production. To determine these, we are developing two indicators:
    • The taxonomic biodiversity indicator reflects the species richness and structure of the insect and soil fauna as a possible gauge of authenticity and nature conservation value.
    • The functional biodiversity indicator measures whether the agricultural ecosystem still has all the functional groups necessary to deliver ecosystem services sustainably. INBO is devising an efficient and generally applicable methodology for monitoring and identifying species.
  • In conjunction with the Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries and Food Research (ILVO) and other research institutes, we are setting up an Agricultural Biodiversity Measurement Network. From this network we can come up with a workable set of indicators to keep track of the situation, examine the effect of management measures and study pressures. For the network, we are defining the baseline biodiversity in the agricultural areas. For this, habitats also have to be mapped in the agricultural areas (BVM). Nature outside the special areas of conservation is also very important for maintaining nature and ecosystem services in Flanders. For the mapping, we are working with innovative monitoring methods such as smart image recognition of aerial photos and satellite images, and DNA barcoding of soil biodiversity. We are committed to working with volunteers, with INBO providing coordination, training and quality control. We are looking for additional funding for the use of the volunteer network.
  • INBO investigates the effectiveness of management measures in the agricultural areas. We combine new knowledge together with the literature and transform our insights into made-to-measure applications for policymaking and management. We disseminate our knowledge through specific channels such as Ecopedia.
  • We study the impact of pressures such as fragmentation, pesticide use, nitrogen deposition and climate change on biodiversity.
  • We focus on trial plots where we test measures in an experimental environment. This enables us to evaluate existing measures and develop new ones. To this end, we consult intensively with stakeholders such as policy implementers, practice centres and farmers, to bring the research as closely into line with policy and practice as possible.

Overall, we are strengthening our partnership with ILVO for our research in agricultural areas.