Ecosystem services and the AgoraNatura blossom for your project
The AgoraNatura blossom visualises the ecosystem services supported by your project. Use the online form to define which ecosystem services you can offer and whether all significant effects can be attributed to your AgoraNatura project.
In the following you will find all ecosystem services of the blossom. To offer an ecosystem service, you should at least reach the lowest of three possible value categories. There are criteria for each of these. In addition, you will find important information on the description, possible quantification and monitoring of results for each ecosystem service. Further, following the ecosystem services, we show you an illustrative example of how to deal with relevant effects that cannot be attributed to your AgoraNatura project.
This is about the occurrence of exceptionally diverse or endangered wild plant species.
Criteria for agricultural land
We often use the High Nature Value (HNV) farmland indicator method. In this method, agricultural areas are differentiated by so-called identification species / identification taxa. The higher the number, the higher the nature conservation value of the area. We adopt this for the classification of the project areas into the categories of the bloom:
valuable ⇒ at least 4 indicator species
very valuable ⇒ 6 – 7 indicator species
extremely valuable ⇒ > 7 indicator species
For some sites, an expert assessment is also helpful.
Record sheets with brief instructions can be found on the Naturplus Standard page.
Criteria for hedges
The following factors play a role for the nature performance “Plant diversity”:
⇒ number of native woody species: >5 / >8; with a total of >75% native woody species!
⇒ + the value of the fringe (at least 4 HNV indicator species fallow).
Both factors should be considered according to their importance, e.g.:
valuable ⇒ 5 native woody species, with > 75% native woody species
very valuable ⇒ 5 native woody species + a border with 6 – 7 HNV species (fallow)
extremely valuable ⇒ 8 native woody species, with 100% native woody species + > 7 HNV species (fallow)
In the fields “Endangered species”, “Number of endangered species”, “Other important species” and “Other special features” you can describe your knowledge of the occurrence of specific target plant species on the project area. Please always include your data sources.
If there is no knowledge of the occurrence of specific target species, use the last field “Plant species to be particularly promoted”.
Avoid double counting.
For agricultural land, we use the High Nature Value Farmland (HNV) method of species identification. So-called “identification species” are recorded along a representative transect. A walk-through of the entire area and targeted observation of the spread of individual species can also be helpful. Recording sheets with brief instructions can be found on the page of the Naturplus standard. The survey must be conducted by an experienced person. (The expected HNV value is the basis for the classification into the AgoraNatura bloom categories).
For grassland, we assume mapping 1 – 2 times within five years. For cropland, annual monitoring may also be appropriate. Please draw transects on a map and indicate the project ID (+ project title) on all mapping sheets!
In the case of woody plants, it is important to monitor new plantings (planting scheme) as well as the development of woody plants after maintenance measures that serve to maintain the diversity of native woody plants.
Photograph the implementation of measures and the results, preferably with GPS recognition and date display switched on. Photograph special individual species!
This is about the habitat as a whole and the orientation of your use to the needs of wildlife species in the area or the conservation of valuable habitat structures.
How do we differentiate the nature conservation value here? Also here we build on the criteria of the High Nature Value Farmland Indicator. However, we supplement these for projects that are aimed at protecting endangered or protected animal species. The use of plant protection products is generally excluded.
- Areas with a valuable stock of wild plant specie
- Protected biotope types that are maintained by the project
- Areas for improving the connectivity of valuable biotopes
- if necessary, minimum sizes have been defined for the project type
- Especially valuable, very well-developed habitat structures described for the type of project occur
- Projects in which the use is specifically aimed at promoting endangered or protected species and the development of these species is also monitoredExtremely valuable
Project area and use are geared towards supporting the reproduction of protected or endangered animal species
In the online form you can distinguish between three types, thus opening different fields. Please use this option, it will make it easier for you to fill in the form. Then use the fields in the form in such a way that your situation is well represented.
First methods to collect relevant data and facts can be found on the page of the Naturplus standard.
If you want to promote specific animal species, the development of the target species – at least the possible use of the project area by the target species – should be observed. Spontaneous observations by experienced ornithologists are also valid. Observations are best noted on a mapping sheet, don’t forget project ID.
If you preserve or develop valuable habitat structures, you can map them and document them with pictures, preferably in comparison with the situation before the project. Recording observations by picture makes reporting more attractive to those investing. Use GPS detection and date display – if possible – as additional evidence of your observation.
The effort required varies depending on the project. On the page of the Naturplus standard you will find first, suitable methods.
This is about genetic diversity in crops and wild plants and animals.
Orchard meadows are about preserving diverse old and endangered fruit species. Point out which endangered species are being preserved or newly planted in your meadow orchard. This requires regular care of the fruit trees. We consider the care of the trees and their age-appropriate good condition as an important evaluation criterion. A meadow orchard that has not been cared for for years, but contains many endangered fruit varieties, would therefore (only) be classified as “valuable”. If the care of the trees is guaranteed in the project, the meadow orchard will be upgraded.
Develop flowering areas or species-rich habitats
When developing flowering areas, the lowest value category is achieved through the use of certified regional seed. If seed from nearby species-rich areas is used in the development of species-rich grassland or cropland, the middle value category can also be achieved.
Donor areas for the development of species-rich habitats
If an existing species-rich area is designated as a donor area, this is seen here as an additional value.
Maintain or create new hedges
If native woody plants are and were used, this supports the preservation of genetic diversity. Since the use is obligatory in the case of new planting in the wild, this usually does not result in an additional benefit; nevertheless, naming the included benefit can increase the attractiveness of the project.
We have prepared various fields for you in the form. Use them to highlight relevant details in your project presentation.
On the page of the Naturplus standard you will find first relevant methods.
Very different project types are relevant here. In the case of orchards and other woody plants, it should be mapped at the end of the project that the relevant woody plants on the site have been successfully planted / maintained and what condition they are in. This includes, if applicable, that distances to neighboring trees have been maintained and that fencing has been successful.
If it is about the development of flowering areas, you will find important information about the use of area-specific seeds for wild plants on the page of the Naturplus standard. For result monitoring, it is of course interesting to know whether the sown, transferred plant species develop well.
All observations must be made by an experienced person. Document your observation with photographs. Use location identification (GPS) and date display. Clearly label mapping sheets with the project ID.
This is about valuable habitat for pollinating insects.
The first projects are about habitat for wild bees and honey bees. This includes a high proportion of flowering pollen and nectar plants and habitats suitable for wild bees to nest and overwinter. Take a look at the page of the Naturplus standard. There you will find more information.
In principle: at least 30 percent cover with nectar and pollen plants and no use of insecticides.
- No monotonous plant cover, easy detection by the number of dominant flower colors, with a flowering period of at least two months.
- In case of a very high cover (> 50%), a monotonous plant stand is also accepted with a flowering period of at least two months
- Diverse plant population, easy detection by at least two dominant flower colors, in addition nectar and pollen plants for wild bees (wild plants) and a flowering period of at least three months with suitable habitats for nesting and overwintering for wild bees
- Increase e.g. by very diverse plant population, very long flowering period, very high proportion of wild species, … taking into account the total proportion of the area.
Use the fields in the form to highlight interesting details for your project area in your project presentation.
On the page of the Naturplus standard you will already find a mapping sheet that you can use.
Here you can usually simply work with pictures. Please use a camera with display of your location.
If you create a new flowering area, document the development of the sown species.
This is about the ability of ecosystems to sequester CO2, or to release really low levels of greenhouse gases, compared to normal use.
Our first project types focus on peatlands. We use the GEST (greenhouse gas emission site type) approach for calculation.
- Peatlands with a high water level, approximately water stage 4+, water level below the surface at about in winter: -15 to -5 / in summer: -20 to -10
- wet bogs with peat growth
In the online form you enter the results of your calculation and explain your procedure, if necessary upload an extra document to explain for certification. You can use the “Qualitative factors” fields to communicate, for example, the average water level or peat thickness on your project area.
If you do not achieve any additional climate performance with your project, please do not report any numbers. However, if you want to show a climate performance of your area that exists due to already existing obligations, use the fields “Qualitative factors” to communicate the relevant arguments and justify the classification of your area in the bloom.
If the time and effort required to calculate this prior to the start of the project is too much for you, look for easy-to-record indicators of the expectation of climate performance from your project and indicate that you are doing the calculation as part of the project.
If you use the GEST approach, plant mapping is important for observation. We consider intervals of 5 years to be sufficient. You may also be able to draw on other annual water level figures. Use these for the documentation of your project.
The aim here is to ensure that an ecosystem supplies clean groundwater, so that lakes and rivers retain good water quality. In intensively used cultivated landscapes, this arises, for example, through the abandonment of “normal” fertilization and the resulting reduced N load for groundwater bodies.
Our first project types are about agricultural land. On this page of the Naturplus standard, you will find initial methods for quantifying reduced nutrient input through extensive farming.
- Use without mineral N fertilization. Use should be directed so that high N discharge is not expected even in extreme years.
- Limited animal stocking and limited organic fertilization are important. Permanent ground cover is also favorable.
- Expected value: up to 50 kg/hectare/year less N load.
- Compliance with the lowest category use conditions on a site close to water bodies:
If we use literature values, the designable expected value does not change. Nevertheless, we assign an additional value point to reward a change in use on these most sensitive sites.
- If a very high reduced N discharge is already achieved by the change of use, the medium category is reached even without the near-water site.
- Expected value: up to 100 kg/hectare/year less N load.
- Extremely high reduced N outputs can be achieved, for example, through adapted peatland use.
- Expected value: > 100 kg/hectare/year less N load
If you achieve an additional effect with your project, enter your calculated water output. Since we want to record different water outputs in perspective, you have to define the unit of measurement and substance yourself. Just use the tooltips in the form to do so.
We would also like to report information on the condition of your target water body. If you do not have information on this, simply leave the fields blank.
You can use the “Qualitative factors” fields to communicate, for example, your animal stocking rate or your decision not to use mineral N fertilizer.
If you do not achieve any additional effect with your project, please do not show any figures. Describe why there is water performance on your project area and use the factor fields to communicate what is relevant.
When showing a reduced N load, observation is hardly possible. If you show a valuable plant stand, this can be taken as an indirect indicator to a certain extent, especially if the project has been running for a long time.
If water performance is considered very important, N-min analyses are possible for some project types, as evidence that the value is indeed low.
Let people enjoy the diversity, uniqueness and beauty of nature through your project.
Special offer for investors
Do you want to and can you offer your investors a special experience? Then invite them to a guided on-site visit or offer a special digital experience. You can distinguish between these two categories in the online form. If you choose the option, a star will appear in the center of your project’s AgoraNatura flower.
Also keep in mind what observation results are expected during the course of your project. For example, invite people to be present during a mapping session or entice them with the expected images from your planned monitoring. You can also offer material exclusively by sending your investors a message with an attachment or a link via “My AgoraNatura”. Highlight something like this when describing your experience.
Consider whether it might make sense to tie a special experience offer to the purchase of a certain number of certificates. If a normal saleable product is created, there is also the option of linking this product to the purchase of certificates.
Your project as an experience
In addition, you will find a selection of easy-to-tick options in the online form. This is about the general accessibility of your project area via a public path, the possible location on a designated hiking trail and more. This may also be of interest to investors.
If disclosure of the specific location is not possible for species protection reasons, advertise with visuals or even sounds. By regularly publishing the progress of the project via “My AgoraNatura” you already establish a general experience.
Use the possibility in the online form to highlight extraordinary things about your area, e.g. something about the historical significance or generally visitable experience offers around your area. As always, use visuals. Show what your project has to offer!
Imagine a particularly species-rich field at an organic farm. There are very many field wild herbs, including endangered segetal species such as field knapweed, field campion and small spurge. This diversity is to be preserved through an AgoraNatura project, as funding is needed for this. Without funding, the farmer cannot and will not continue to use the land as he has in the past. It is quite true that he would like to continue “producing” the biodiversity, but he would also like an appropriate wage for it.
In this example, some nature services are achieved even without the AgoraNatura project, to visualize this, there are the hatched areas in addition to the full color areas in blossom. Read in the following which considerations lie behind it.
Plant diversity: Mapping of cropland finds 7 identification species for high value cropland. The goal is to maintain the existing diversity. For the project, the use is therefore planned accordingly. The project area can be classified in the medium value category with the 7 identification species in the area “diversity plants”: “very valuable”.
For the reference scenario, it should be noted that the farmer works according to the guidelines for organic farming. It can be assumed that with a more intensive use the special diversity is lost. However, organic use is not necessarily expected to result in the loss of all field wild herb diversity. Therefore, when classifying the project area into value categories, we would define the lowest value category as “already present” (shown in hatched), and value the middle value category as additional (shown in full color).
Animal Diversity: If the use is converted to valuable cropland as in our project type, a patchy, herb-rich cereal stand is created. It provides accessible food for diverse species of the agricultural landscape and also good breeding opportunities for ground-nesting bird species, such as the skylark, which is declining in population throughout Germany. In the area of “animal diversity”, the project area can thus be classified at least in the lowest value category. However, since it is known that ecological use basically creates better conditions for wild animal species to find a habitat on farmland, we tend to define this lowest value category as existing (shown hatched), not least in order to also adequately represent the already existing benefits of organic farming.
Water performance: Here, too, we see the first value category as given, since ecological use is already assessed as very positive for good groundwater quality. – To go also once on the implementation in the online form: In the description in the online form we click in such a case the category “valuable” but with the statement: “is maintained or achieved with the reference use (shown shaded)”.
Conclusion: In this example, we have classified relatively much as already existing. It can certainly be argued differently. It is important that the blossom makes it clear when relevant effects cannot be credited to the project. For this, you have the different options in the form to classify the natural services.
Also, keep in mind when filling out that the choice of value category is a promise. Estimate your expected results conservatively.