The Royal Society for the Protection for Birds in the UK estimates that recreating 160,000 ha of a range of habitats by 2020 would cost an additional Â£20 million per year on top of current nature conservation expenditure - which is less than 1% of current agricultural subsidies.
Another major agri-environment scheme in the Netherlands is to conserve botanically rich grassland by reducing fertilizer inputs and/or delaying the date at which grazing or mowing starts. However, no difference in botanical diversity was found between fields with management agreements under this scheme and conventionally managed fields. Furthermore, there was no tendency for botanical diversity to increase with the age or number of years that the field had been under a management agreement. One reason might be that fertility takes a long time to respond to the change in management scheme, and that the scheme had been running for too short a timescale. Fields with management agreements did show some increase in diversity of hover flies and bees, although the management agreements seemed to have little effect on botanical diversity on working farms in spite of well-designed initial experiments.
2. Extensive restoration and habitat improvement is obviously insufficient on its own to solve current rural problems, but, combined with other measures, it might help to restore trust and respect between the farming community and the public, and thus help revitalize agriculture.
3. Conventionally managed farms might act as ecological traps, with birds attracted to sites that result in lower breeding success and ignoring sites in which they might do better. If this is the case, areas need to be created that are both of good quality and are perceived by birds as being such.
4. Whilst carefully targeted and tested agro-environment schemes might be beneficial, the most cost-effective approach is still likely to be to combine this with large-scale habitat restoration in carefully selected areas.