Scoring with biodiversity - farmers enrich nature

In collaboration with the agricultural organisations IP-Suisse (integrated farming, 20´000 farmers), Bio Suisse (organic farming, 6´000 farmers) and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, it is our objective to promote farmland species on about a third of the agricultural land in Switzerland.


In our project, innovative tools have been developed which should motivate farmers to enhance biodiversity on their farms. Simultaneously, farms are ecologically improved (case studies) with the aid of the novel tools and farmers, consumers and policy makers will be acquainted with the ideas of nature-friendly farming.


A credit point system (CPS) was developed to assess the efforts of farmers for biodiversity at the farm level. Farmers can also use the credit point system for self-evaluation of their ecological efforts. On 133 farms we tested the effectiveness of the credit point system. We found that the points credited to a farmer for his/her ecological efforts indeed positively correlate with farm biodiversity.

Alongside, we investigate whether a whole-farm advisory service encourages farmers to implement additional, and especially more targeted, measures for the benefit of biodiversity. For this, we also use our advisory tool, the indicator species system. It supports and motivates farmers in choosing suitable management options for species that occur on or in the vicinity of the counselled farms. The findings are continuously integrated in (further) education and farm advisory programmes.


A nature-friendly agriculture is of major importance for numerous plants and animals. Without the typical farmland species, farmland would be reduced to a mere agrarian desert. With a wildlife-friendly agriculture, a more vital environment is created, additionally offering exciting landscapes and an increased quality of life for people.

This project is carried out in close collaboration with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL. Our aim is to enhance typical farmland species on a large scale, together with our partners from the farming organisations IP-Suisse (20’000 farmers) and Bio Suisse (6’000 farmers)  More than a fourth of the agricultural land in Switzerland is currently managed according to IP-Suisse Bio Suisse guidelines. Thus, we have the great opportunity to implement nature-friendly farming on a large scale. With this approach, Switzerland can lead the way in sustainable farming and natural resource management. Findings of this project will spur the (ecological) development of the Swiss Agricultural Policy and will thereby unfold a large-scale impact.


The credit point system is available in a version each for lowland and mountain areas. On 133 farms, we tested whether the score of the credit point system (CPS score) correlated with farm-level biodiversity. We collected CPS scores, data on cultivated crops and implemented ecological compensation areas (ECAs, options from the Swiss agri-envrionment scheme). We mapped plants, grasshoppers, butterflies and breeding birds on all 133 farms. We showed that the CPS is an easy-to-use tool and that the resulting CPS score correlated well with farm-level biodiversity (Birrer et al. 2014, Zellweger-Fischer et al. 2016).

24 farms which were analysed in 2009 received a whole-farm advisory service. Advisors assessed the ecological potential for each farm and made farm-tailored suggestions regarding biodiversity-favouring options with the aid of the credit points system. The indicator species system proved to be a helpful and motivating tool. On the advised farms, the proportion of ecological compensation areas (ECAs) markedly increased (from 8.9 to 13.5%). Apart from quantity, the ecological quality of ECAs was strongly improved. After 2009, the project farms were visited again (24 advised and 24 control farms) in 2015 to see how the implemented ECAs and wildlife-friendly management have affected on-farm biodiversity. Analyses are ongoing.

The credit point system was included in the IP-Suisse guidelines (label for integrated farming). Farms producing for IP-Suisse are obligated to reach a minimum CPS score to be allowed to deliver foods to IP-Suisse. The wholesaler Migros markets these products under the label TerraSuisse. The Swiss Ornithological Institute supports IP-Suisse and Migros in matters concerning biodiversity and is responsible for the scientific evaluation (see also TerraSuisse). In the meantime, Bio Suisse has adopted a catalogue of biodiversity-favouring measures which is based on the credit point system. Organic farms must now implement at least 12 measures from the catalogue.

The project has delivered many practical experiences, e.g. on how and where to implement ECAs to attain the best results for biodiversity and on how these biodiversity efforts can become more apparent to consumers. To make this knowledge applicable for a wide range of farms and biodiversity advisors, we developed a comprehensive handbook for the implementation and maintenance of biodiversity-favouring measures on farms.

Contents of the Credit Point System (English)

Punktesystem Tal / Système de points plaine
Punktesystem Berg / Système de points montagne
Anleitung zum Punktesystem / Manuel d'utilisation du système de points
Publication list

Project management

Simon Birrer, Markus Jenny
in collaboration with Lukas Pfiffner and Sibylle Stöckli (Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL)



Financial support

Bundesamt für Landwirtschaft BLW
Bundesamt für Umwelt BAFU
MAVA Stiftung
Sophie und Karl Binding Stiftung
Paul Schiller Stiftung
Stiftung Temperatio
Anna Maria und Karl Kramer-Stiftung


Chevillat, V. S. Stöckli, S. Birrer, M. Jenny, R. Graf, L. Pfiffner & J. Zellweger-Fischer (2017):
Surfaces de promotion de la biodiversité: amelioration quantitative et qualitative par le conseil.
Stöckli, S., S. Birrer, J. Zellweger-Fischer, O. Balmer, M. Jenny & L. Pfiffner (2017):
Quantifying the extent to which farmers can influence biodiversity on their farms.
Birrer, S., R. Bircher, V. Chevillat, R. Graf, D. Hagist, R. Home, M. Jenny, L. Pfiffner, S. Stöckli, B. Steinemann, G. Weidmann & J. Zellweger-Fischer (2016):
Mit Vielfalt punkten - Bauern beleben die Natur. Jahresbericht 2016 und Schlussbericht
Zellweger-Fischer, J., P. Althaus, S. Birrer, M. Jenny, L. Pfiffner & S. Stöckli (2016):
Relevé de la biodiversité sur les exploitations agricoles à l'aide d'un système à points.
Birrer, S., R. Bircher, V. Chevillat, R. Graf, D. Hagist, R. Home, M. Jenny, L. Pfiffner, S. Stöckli, B. Steinemann, G. Weidmann & J. Zellweger-Fischer (2015):
Mit Vielfalt punkten - Bauern beleben die Natur. Jahresbericht 2015.
Zellweger-Fischer, J., S. Birrer, M. Jenny, S. Stoeckli & L. Pfiffner (2015):
A Credit Point System for assessing and enhancing biodiversity at the farm scale - and beyond.
Birrer, S., J. Zellweger-Fischer, S. Stoeckli, F. Korner-Nievergelt, O. Balmer, M. Jenny & L. Pfiffner (2014):
Biodiversity at the farm scale: A novel credit point system.
Birrer, S., V. Chevillat, R. Graf, D. Hagist, R. Home, M. Jenny, L. Pfiffner, S. Stöckli & J. Zellweger-Fischer (2014):
Mit Vielfalt punkten - Bauern beleben die Natur. Jahresbericht 2014.
Home, R., O. Balmer, I. Jahrl, M. Stolze & L. Pfiffner (2014):
Motivations for implementation of ecological compensation areas on Swiss lowland farms
Birrer, S., M. Jenny, F. Korner-Nievergelt, K. Meichtry-Stier, L. Pfiffner, J. Zellweger-Fischer & J.L. Zollinger (2013):
Ökologische Vorrangflächen fördern Kulturlandvögel
Jenny, M., J. Zellweger-Fischer, O. Balmer, S. Birrer & L. Pfiffner (2013):
The credit point system: an innovative approach to enhance biodiversity on farmland.
Jenny, M., S. Stöckli, S. Birrer & L. Pfiffner (2013):
Credit points for diversity on farmland. Farmers measure biodiversity.
Chevillat, V., O. Balmer, S. Birrer, V. Doppler, R. Graf, M. Jenny, L. Pfiffner, C. Rudmann & J. Zellweger-Fischer (2012):
Gesamtbetriebliche Beratung steigert Qualität und Quantität von Ökoausgleichsflächen.
Jahrl, I., C. Rudmann, L. Pfiffner & O. Balmer (2012):
Motivationen für die Umsetzung von Ökoausgleichsmassnahmen.
Pfiffner, L. & R. Graf (2010):
Mit Leitarten die Vielfalt fördern.