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Developing SUstainable PERmanent Grassland systems and policies

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SUPER-G (Developing SUstainable PERmanent Grassland systems and policies)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2021-05-31

SUPER-G applies a multi-actor approach, working with farmers; land owners/managers and their advisers; third sector and civil society groups; non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and researchers, policy and business communities to achieve: 1) better understanding of the importance and functioning of permanent grasslands (PG) within five European biogeographic (flora/fauna; soil type, altitudinal band and climatic) regions, in the context of market trends and other global change; 2) benchmarking of PG performance across Europe; 3) co-development of integrated approaches for profitable and sustainable PG management in a rapidly changing world; and 4) co-development of tools and policy mechanisms, which are inclusive of stakeholder and citizen priorities, to support the maintenance and sustainable management of PG. The project will last five years to allow time for the establishment of farm networks for data gathering and analysis; and the development of good grassland practices, innovative techniques and farm-level and policy support tools.

The project focuses on the following ecosystem services (ES; based on the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services; CICES, V4.3 2013):

• Food production (meat, dairy products, honey), wool and biomass (wood, cork, bioenergy, fibre, bedding material)
• Biodiversity (incl. maintenance of ecosystem functions; and provision of ES from species to landscapes)
• Climate regulation (through carbon sequestration and regulation of greenhouse gas emissions)
• Water quality (for drinking and non-drinking purposes; and to maintain favourable living conditions for terrestrial and aquatic biota)
• Mediation of water flows (for supply and discharge; and flood protection/mitigation)
• Erosion control (vegetation cover to protect/stabilise terrestrial ecosystems)
• Landscape and recreation
The project is co-ordinated and managed in WP1 to ensure multi-actor functioning across Work Packages (WPs) and a transdisciplinary approach. This has included the establishment of a General Assembly (GA), chaired by the scientific co-ordinator, with one representative per project partner; and an External Advisory Panel (EAP) to guide and inform the direction and outputs from the project. In the first reporting period there have been three GA (project) meetings held, which have also involved input from the EAP. The Executive Board (EB), composed of the seven WP leaders, has also met in person or remotely on six occasions. Project management guidelines and a data management plan have also been produced, and an internal collaborative platform created and used.

WP2 (Delivering sustainable systems) aims to identify the important functions that PG provides and define what needs to be done to ensure optimal delivery of ES. This began with the development of a draft European grassland typology that covers the range of grassland types in terms of biogeographic characteristics, and a draft conceptual model of farming systems, characterised in terms of livestock species, stocking rate, PG share and exploitation regime (i.e. predominance of cutting and/or grazing). Better understanding of the importance and functioning of permanent grasslands (PG) is being achieved through a systematic review of the relationship between PG management and ES delivery. Work has started on an inventory of management approaches and emerging technologies for improving the ES function of PG; and the feasibility of management options/ approaches will be investigated in facilitated transdisciplinary workshops by the use of expert elicitation in each of the five biogeographic regions.

WP3 (Benchmarking and testing) is largely based on data gathering from a network of farms and experimental platforms spread over the five biogeographic regions. Co-innovation farmer workshops have been held in XX farm networks to discuss the main challenges associated with PG management and the types of innovative practices that farmers and advisers would like to test on farm for optimising ES. These innovative practices include establishing ‘multi-species swards’, use of ‘virtual fencing’ and using remote sensing technology to monitor and manage ES delivery. Benchmarking has started within farm networks through data gathering in a PG management questionnaire survey. Field experiments, trials and demonstrations have been set up on commercial farms and at experimental platforms, with detailed integrated assessments that focus on the synergies and trade-offs between productivity, biodiversity and delivery of other selected ES.

WP4 (Securing performance) investigates the socio-economic factors that influence PG management. Systematic reviews have been completed to i) assess the extrinsic and intrinsic value of ES associated with PG; ii) identify and quantify individual or societal preferences and values for preserving or enhancing the ES associated with PG; and iii) understand the socio-economic drivers and barriers that influence farmers’ behaviours and intentions. We have also carried out a review of European policies that influence PG management and their perceived impact.

WP5 (Aiding decision-making) aims to develop decision-support tools (DSTs) for farm-level and policy support. The first stage has been a review of existing tools available for use on PG. Available tools have been collated and described, and key gaps will be identified in a review. Workshops with farmers to identify what farm tools should be developed have been carried out across the five biogeographic regions and meetings with policy makers to discuss the main policy issue around PG and what policy tool should be developed are ongoing.

The WP6 (Communication & Dissemination) team has designed and implemented a detailed communication, dissemination and data management plan. A network of contacts and organisations representing farmers, advisers, researchers, retailers and policy makers has been established in each partner country to co-develop clear messages and practical outputs from the project. The groups will be used to disseminate updates and gain feedback on the development of innovative practices, technologies and DSTs.

WP7 (Ethics requirements) ensures the rigorous application of ethical and data privacy standards, and compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR - Regulation (EU) 2016/679).
1) Benchmarking of grassland outputs based on local and regional site conditions across Europe.
2) Provision of farm-level tools for the management of permanent grasslands taking into account environmental, economic and social dimensions
3) Enhanced cooperation and knowledge exchange; project partners will work across 5 biogeographical regions applying a transdisciplinary approach to address issues at two different spatial scales:1) local/regional and 2) European scale
4) Improved policy instruments for the conservation of biodiversity and delivery of identified ES and climate action provided by PG and appropriate incentives to reduce conflict between the delivery of contrasting ES such as primary production, biodiversity conservation, carbon sequestration
5) Integrated scientific support for relevant EU policies (e.g. CAP, WFD, CC objectives)
6) Strengthening of transdisciplinary research and long-lasting implementation of the results obtained through the implementation of the multi-actor approach
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