Background

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From 2014–2017, the Swiss Confederation will reimburse the agricultural sector with a good CHF 2.8 billion of general direct payments per annum for its services, one of which is the preservation and promotion of biodiversity. This service is part of the proof of ecological performance that must be furnished by farmers in order to receive direct payments. Around CHF 367 million is currently provided per year for the promotion of biodiversity.

Between 1996 and 2005, the effectiveness of the biodiversity-promotion measures was tested for the Swiss Midlands as part of the ‘Evaluation of Eco-Measures‘ project. Since then, no further evaluation has been conducted, and a control instrument for highlighting the development of biodiversity on cultivated land and for enabling statistically corroborated statements is lacking.

In order to bridge this gap, in 2010, and based on the ‘Ordinance on the Assessment of Sustainability in Agriculture‘ (919.118) of 7 December 1998, the Federal Department for Agriculture, together with the Federal Department of the Environment, initiated the development of a monitoring tool. Under the acronym ‘ALL-EMA‘, which stands for ‘Arten und Lebensräume Landwirtschaft – Espèces et milieux agricoles‘ (the German and French equivalents of ‘Agricultural Species and Habitats’), Agroscope –  in partnership with the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Hintermann and Weber AG and further experts – developed a method for monitoring species and habitats in the open agricultural landscape that, according to the Agricultural Environmental Targets, are deemed to be a matter of priority for the Swiss agricultural sector.