Agriculture is the dominant land use throughout much of Western Europe (Robinson and Sutherland, 2002). Since the 1940s, farming has become progressively more intensive, resulting in the widespread decline of many species associated with farmland. Concerns about these negative impacts on biodiversity and the environment have resulted in a change in agricultural policy towards a greater emphasis on environmental protection and biodiversity conservation. This has included the introduction of agri-environment schemes (AES) that provide payment for environmentally beneficial management (Boatman, 2007). Concerns about the sustainability, environmental impacts and potential health implications of intensive farming have led to an increase in the market for organic food production and development of more sustainable systems such as integrated farming.
The question of how different farming systems compare in their effects on biodiversity and other environmental impacts was recently identified by policy makers and scientists as one of the top 100 priority policy-relevant ecological questions in the UK. The need to learn from agri-environment schemes to optimise future biodiversity gain and ecological benefits was also prioritised (Sutherland et al., 2006). These questions led to the development of the original systematic review question, and a systematic map.
The primary objective of this study is to map and describe the nature and coverage of the evidence pertaining to the topic of this review. The map can be used to identify knowledge gaps to inform future primary research or research synthesis.