Agricultural ecology

Los cultivos extensivos de herbáceos constituyen uno de los principales sistemas agrarios de alto valor en España (Cobeña, Madrid)

Extensive crops are one of the main high-value agricultural systems in Spain (Cobeña, Madrid).

Over the last 40 years, agricultural intensification associated with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has caused the local, regional and national extinction of many fauna and flora species, as well as profound changes to the way European agro-ecosystems work. The TEG-UAM’s Agricultural Ecology line studies the interactions between agricultural policy instruments and biodiversity from both a strictly scientific and also a technical/applied perspective. We strive to provide useful knowledge that can help to improve the conservation of natural areas linked to farmed environments. To this end, we draw on the experience of our team members working on Mediterranean grasslands, shrublands and terrestrial vertebrates, with whom we share our work. We also study farming activities and the socio-economics of rural environments, convinced of the need for a trans-disciplinary approach in this area.

This line’s basic research into biodiversity in agrarian environments is mainly focused on the response of bird, insect and weed communities to intensification and/or abandonment of agriculture and livestock farming at both the field and the broader landscape levels. The conservation value of Spanish agricultural systems is largely due to the continuity of extensive agriculture at the individual field level and, in combination, their formation of mosaic landscapes. These mosaics are now threatened by farm intensification and/or abandonment.

Our technical/applied research ranges from the assessment of the effectiveness of agricultural policy instruments (agri-environmental measures, conditionality, etc.) and the identification, characterization and evaluation of agricultural systems with high natural values to the analysis of the population dynamics of feral species that can become pests for agriculture.

Our methodology is based on field, lab and team work. It includes surveys of species in the wild, profiling landscape components, digital map production and treatment, surveys and interviews with farmers and other rural stakeholders, the design of innovative assessment methodologies and the design and calculation of environmental and socio-economic indicators.

The work of this line has been published in high-impact scientific journals, technical reports, manuals and books written by its members. Funding mainly comes from competitive grants awarded by European (FAIR, ESDC, JRC, EuroDiversity) and Spanish (CICYT and DGICYT) bodies, contracts with European (EEA, DG-Agri) and Spanish administrations (mainly the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment), companies and NGOs.

Some of our major projects:

  • Framework Contract Evaluation studies of CAP measures contributing to the general objective of sustainable management of natural resources and climate action (AGRI-2016-0296). DG-Agri, Comisión Europea. 2016-2021.
  • Explorando el movimiento: dispersión del topillo campesino (Microtus arvalis) en paisajes fragmentados. CSIC-IREC- Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (CGL2015-71255-P). 2016-2018.
  • Informe Nacional sobre el Estado de la Biodiversidad para la Alimentación y la Agricultura en España. Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente. 2015.
  • Restauración y conservación de los ecosistemas madrileños: Respuesta frente al cambio global (REMEDINAL-3). Comunidad de Madrid (S2013/MAE-2719). 2014-2018.
  • Ciencia de frontera para un control de plagas de topillo campesino con base ecológica: mejorando el hábitat agrario, la biodiversidad y la salud. Fundación BBVA. 2014-2017.
  • SAVN: Una oportunidad para el desarrollo sostenible del medio rural. WWF/España (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Medio Rural y Marino). 2011-2014.
  • Factores que determinan la variación espacio-temporal de los patrones de dispersión en el topillo campesino (Microtus arvalis): consecuencias demográficas y evolutivas. Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (CGL2011-30274). 2011-2014.
  • Framework contract for the provision of thematic studies in the field of agri-environment. Joint Research Centre, Comisión Europea (JRC385309). 2009-2013.
  • Cross Compliance Assessment Tool-CCAT. Comisión Europea (44423-CCAT). 2007-2010.
  • Agricultural policy-induced landscape changes: Effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services. European Science Foundation (05_EDIV_FP260-AGRIPOPES)-Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia-DGICYT (CGL2006-26145-E). 2006-2009.
  • Study on Environmental Cross-compliance Indicators in the context of the Farm Advisory System–CIFAS. Agencia Europea de Medio Ambiente (EEA/EAS/05/001). 2005-2006.
  • Programa piloto de acciones de conservación de la biodiversidad en sistemas ambientales con usos agrarios en el marco del desarrollo rural. Ministerio de Medio Ambiente (Convenio Nº 038501). 2002-2003.
  • MEDACTION: Policies for land use to combat desertification. Comisión Europea (EESD-ENV-99-2). 2001-2003
  • Implementation and Effectiveness of EU Agri-environmental Schemes established under Regulation 2078/92. Comisión Europea (FAIR1 CT95-274). 1996-1999.