Ecological Focus Areas and beneficial insect (Coleoptera: Carabidae) conservation for pest control: habitat suitability and farm specific factors
Abstract: Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) were introduced as a component of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) ‘greening’ measures. Different options are available depending on those activated by individual Member States, but across Europe as a whole, they range from cover crops and agroforestry, to the protection and enhancement of boundary features. Eligible farms must have a minimum arable area (including fallow land, temporary grassland and crop land) of 15 ha, for which EFAs need to comprise 5% of this area. The overall environmental benefits delivered by a given EFA option will depend on farm specific factors, and will vary between farms and Member States. In order to help account for this variability, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) commissioned the development of a software tool, the EFA calculator, to assist land managers in the selection of EFA elements appropriate to their farm, in order to optimise ecosystem services, biodiversity and farm management. A simple bespoke scoring system underpins the calculator but enables the distillation of complex and data-intensive parameters into a readily interpretable and user friendly format. Although multiple ecosystem services are accounted for by the tool, this paper will focus on pest control, specifically the impact of EFAs on ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) and their potential role as beneficial insects. Crop cover, frequency of cultivation, field size and the quality and connectedness of field boundaries are key factors taken into account.