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The tribulations of the Northern Lapwing in the Marais poitevin

Reconciling biodiversity and agriculture by means of agri-environmental measures is still a subject of considerable debate. INRA researchers from Versailles-Grignon have focused on conservation of the Northern Lapwing in the marshy region of the Marais Poitevin, in order to develop a dynamic model and compare these different schemes. They were thus able to demonstrate that measures which give priority to results offer a good compromise between production and conservation.

Northern Lapwing at the edge of a lake. © Guy Renaud, RENAUD Guy
Updated on 05/09/2015
Published on 10/22/2012

In addition to economic performance and food security, modern farming integrates certain environmental, social and cultural dimensions. One of the crucial issues is then to reconcile agricultural production targets and the conservation of biodiversity. Since the early 1990s, agri-environmental measures have been implemented in Europe to encourage this multifunctionality.

These schemes may:
- be action-oriented and prefer the implementation of farming practices that favour the environment;
- be result-oriented and based on remunerating the biodiversity that is actually present on plot;
- or be focused on habitat and aim to offer a habitat that is suitable for targeted species.

INRA scientists in Versailles-Grignon, working in collaboration with their CNRS and MNHN colleagues, chose to compare these three types of measures. They focused on the Northern Lapwing, a small wading bird that assiduously frequents the wet meadows of the Marais Poitevin and whose life cycle is closely linked to grassland management methods. The scientists developed a model that took account of the dynamics of populations of this bird and of grassland grazing. The scientists thus demonstrated that for a similar level of production, agri-environmental measures targeting habitat (to obtain adequate grass height while limiting trampling) or results (i.e. a certain size of bird populations) guaranteed better ecological
performance than action-oriented measures (implying limits on the number of animals at key time points during the life cycle of the Northern Lapwing).

Result-oriented measures also enable greater flexibility in terms of grassland management, allowing farmers the freedom to choose their strategies and adapt them to local conditions and climatic variations. Taking account of the spatial dimensions of grassland management by integrating interactions between different farms in the overall results for a territory is the next step necessary in order to evaluate the feasibility of such measures.
Opening the debate on grassland management strategies linked to the conservation of wild species living in these ecosystems provides an opportunity for the negotiation of agri-environmental measures.


Sabatier R. Doyen L. and Tichit M. 2012. Action versus result-oriented schemes in a grassland agroecosystem: a dynamic modelling approach, PLoS ONE 7(4): e33257.  doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033257.