Is the effectiveness of policy-driven mitigation measures on carabid populations driven by landscape and farmland heterogeneity? Applying a modelling approach in the Dutch agroecosystems

Elżbieta Ziółkowska, Aaldrik Tiktak, Christopher John Topping

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    The growing challenges of protecting biodiversity in agro-ecosystems and maintaining high agricultural productivity has become an important issue within the European Union, shaping both European and national agro-policies. The presented study is part of a broader evaluation of the interim targets of the 2013 Dutch policy plan on sustainable use of pesticides, carried out in 2019 by the PBL (Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving) Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. We aimed to assess the effectiveness of selected mitigation measures suggested in the policy plan on non-target terrestrial arthropods using a common carabid beetle Bembidion lampros as a model species. We combined dynamic landscape models with detailed agent-based population modelling to simulate impacts of reduction of toxicity of insecticides, reduction of spray drift to the off-crop area, and increase in area of field margins on the beetle population dynamics in ten agricultural landscapes representing different farming systems. Our simulations showed that a shift towards low-risk products should be the priority if the goal is to increase beetle range. To promote local beetle abundance this needs be coupled with increasing amount of field margins in a landscape. Overall, the observed treatment and landscape effects were highly context-specific and therefore we suggest that care is used when defining and interpretting metrics based on population effects of policy measures. This caveat notwithstanding, the use of simulation to assess complex interactions between landscape, ecology and behaviour of species, and policy measures can be a powerful tool supporting innovative policy management. This should include the development of landscape-context specific targets and/or mitigation measures.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0279639
    JournalPLOS ONE
    Number of pages26
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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