The importance of data collection

The largest ever ecosystem investigation of its kind across England has launched, which will help assess the impact of ‘nature-friendly’ farming practices at more than 6,000 locations.

The project has been set up to build a picture of the current state of farmland habitats and soil conditions. In our varied farming landscape the study will include the uplands of Cumbria and Yorkshire through to the rolling arable fields of Kent building a complete picture of the different regions and farming systems.

Funded by Defra and Natural England, the England Ecosystem Project is being rolled out by research institute Fera with the support of 15 organisations, including the Wildlife Trust and ADAS.

The insights from the data aims to evidence how farmers are helping to achieve the UK’s 2050 net zero goal, and highlight untapped opportunities for environmental protection. 

Martin Worsley, natural capital researcher at Fera, said: ‘Our aim is to quantify the living aspect of soils across every type of farmland habitat, from upland livestock farms in the Scottish borders to horticulture and arable farms down in Kent.

‘Creating this baseline will help us to track important metrics, such as soil carbon and nutrient levels, over time to show where farmers are helping to move the dial with environmental protection.’

The study comes two years after the UEA, the Norfolk Coastal Partnership and the North Norfolk Coastal Group, along with many other stakeholder organisations launched its Biodiversity Audit, the largest one of its kind, along the managed and farmed land along the North Norfolk coast. Phase Two of the Biodiversity Audit started in 2022 looking at the farmed landscape just inland from the A149 coast road. Results and implications of that phase of the Biodiversity Audit will be part of the exciting morning of presentations taking place on 22 September at Sandringham, by kind permission of the Sandringham Estate.

Places for the NNCG event are filling fast, so do book with to make sure you don’t miss out.

Explaining the importance of data of the kind unearthed by both the Biodiversity Audit and the England Ecosystem Project, Worsley says: ‘If you are looking to explore environmentally friendly income streams, it’s important to have detailed baseline measurements of your farmland natural capital to be able to accurately plan how best to go about making investments and tapping into the funding on offer.

‘If you’re not 100 per cent confident on current farmland data, such as the levels of soil carbon or total wildlife habitats across your holding, you’ll be in the dark when it comes to making the most of income opportunities.’