Pay farmers to cover the costs of conservation measures

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • Three studies evaluated the effects on mammals of paying farmers to cover the costs of conservation measures. The three studies were in the UK.



  • Abundance (3 studies): A replicated, controlled study, in the UK found that agri-environment scheme enrolment was associated with increased brown hare density in one of two regions studied. A replicated, site comparison study in Northern Ireland, UK found that agri-environment scheme enrolment did not increase numbers of Irish hares. A replicated, controlled study in the UK found that in field margins created through enrolment in an agri-environment scheme, small mammal abundance in spring increased, whereas it remained stable in conventionally managed margins.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated, controlled study, in 1998–2002, on 71 arable farms in two UK regions (Browne & Aebischer 2003) found that increased semi-natural habitat cover through enrolment in an agri-environment scheme was associated with increases in brown hare Lepus europaeus density in one region but not another. In East Anglia, brown hare density on farms enrolled in the scheme increased by 35% from 1998–2003, compared to an 18% decline on non-enrolled farms. In the West Midlands, hare density changes from 1998–2003 did not differ significantly between farm types (enrolled farms: decline of 10.8%; non-enrolled farms: increase of 3.6%). Seventy-one farms were surveyed, 19 enrolled and 18 not enrolled in an agri-environment scheme in East Anglia and 19 enrolled and 15 not enrolled in West Midlands. The scheme (Arable Stewardship Pilot Scheme) incentivised a range of measures which are not specified in the study, but appear to include increasing woodland and set-aside areas. Enrolled farms operated under the scheme from 1998 onwards. Hares were surveyed from November–February in 1998–1999 and 2002–2003 by spotlighting after dark from a vehicle. Usually, ≥20 fields/farm were counted (≥30% of the farm area).

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, site comparison study in 2005 on 200 plots covering a range of agricultural habitats in Northern Ireland, UK (Reid et al. 2007) found that retaining and enhancing field boundaries, reducing grazing intensity and managing nutrient systems through enrolment in an agri-environment scheme did not increase numbers of Irish hares Lepus timidus hibernicus. Hare abundance in agri-environment plots (0.45 hares/km transect) did not significantly differ from that in non-agri-environment plots (0.41 hares/km transect). One hundred and fifty 1-km2 plots, on land that was enrolled into an agri-environment scheme 10–17 years previously, were selected along with 50 non-enrolled 1-km2 plots, chosen to match enrolled plots for landscape characteristics. Hares were surveyed at night, in mid-winter, by spotlighting from a vehicle.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A replicated, controlled study in 2005–2011 on an arable farm in Buckinghamshire, UK (Broughton et al. 2014) found that in wide grassy or grass and flower margins created on arable fields through enrolment in an agri-environment scheme, small mammal abundance in spring increased over the study period, but it remained stable in narrow, conventionally managed field margins. Small mammal abundance in spring rose by 140% on wide grassy margins and grass and flower margins over the first five years following establishment. There was no significant abundance change on conventional margins, nor any differences between margins in autumn population changes. Absolute counts are not presented in the paper. There were five replicates of three treatments, each on 43–70 ha of farmland. Treatments were 6 m-wide grassy margins (‘Entry Level Scheme’) and 6 m-wide grass and wildflower margins (‘Entry Level Scheme Extra’) both created as part of an agri-environment scheme, and conventional management (uncultivated, 2 m-wide field margins or 1 m margins alongside ditches). Margins were established in 2005. Small mammals were live-trapped, over three nights and two days, in November–December 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2010 and each following May.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Littlewood, N.A., Rocha, R., Smith, R.K., Martin, P.A., Lockhart, S.L., Schoonover, R.F., Wilman, E., Bladon, A.J., Sainsbury, K.A., Pimm S. and Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Terrestrial Mammal Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for terrestrial mammals excluding bats and primates. Synopses of Conservation Evidence Series. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Terrestrial Mammal Conservation
Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

Terrestrial Mammal Conservation - Published 2020

Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

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