Thursday, 2 May 2013

Review of environmental evidence and REPS

What was the environmental benefit of the Irish Rural Environmental Protection Scheme?

For several years, people have regularly asked about the extent to which there has been a positive environmental effect of the Irish agri-environment scheme (REPS, Rural Environment Protection Scheme). This is an important question to answer, for a number of reasons.

Answers would inform the effectiveness of the scheme, and address some of the formal requirements for monitoring and evaluation of the scheme's performance. Equally importantly, I believe that farmers will respond even more positively to agri-environmental measures and actions if they can be shown that their efforts are effective, and make a difference.

To address the question 'What's the effect of REPS?', we started to conduct a systematic review based on a search of journal articles using defined search terms. In the end, we had to abandon the plan to conduct a systematic review (no more than 12 articles were returned in the search), and conducted a more traditional narrative review that included a considerable amount of grey literature (which proved as useful as it was elusive).

Our review in Biology and Environment  (see Teagasc repository for open access version)confirmed the absence of a comprehensive, national-scale study of the environmental impacts of REPS, and we concluded "Because of this, there is insufficient evidence with which to judge the environmental effectiveness of the national-scale implementation of the whole scheme."

We compared the level of payments toward different measures with different environmental objectives, and found a distinct increase over successive versions of REPS in the total payments being directed toward the biodiversity objectives of REPS. For this reason we concluded that biodiversity measures and options should be a priority for any national-scale environmental assessment of the scheme.

Although REPS is now closed to new entrants, valuable lessons can be learned from the scheme. Given the considerable overlap between REPS measures and options and those included in the 2010 Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS), assessment of REPS measures could also be used to inform the likely environmental performance of the AEOS (or future iterations of it).

Finn, J.A. and Ó hUallacháin, D. (2012) A review of evidence on the environmental impact of Ireland’s Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS). Biology and Environment 112: 11-34.

An Open Access version of this paper is available from the Teagasc repository, T-Stór. Click here for access to this article (requires sign-in).

Picture kindly provided Caroline Sullivan.

No comments:

Post a Comment