Measuring the accuracy of agro-environmental in dicators

D. Makowski, M. Tichit, L. Guichard, H. van Keulen, N. Beaudoin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Numerous agro-environmental indicators have been developed by agronomists and ecologists during the last 20 years to assess the environmental impact of farmers’ practices, and to monitor effects of agro-environmental policies. The objectives of this paper were (i) to measure the accuracy of a wide range of agro-environmental indicators from experimental data and (ii) to discuss the value of different information typically used by these indicators, i.e. information on farmers’ practices, and on plant and soil characteristics. Four series of indicators were considered in this paper: indicators of habitat quality for grassland bird species, indicators of risk of disease in oilseed rape crops, indicators of risk of pollution by nitrogen fertilizer, and indicators of weed infestation. Several datasets were used to measure their accuracy in cultivated plots and in grasslands. The sensitivity, specificity, and probability of correctly ranking plots were estimated for each indicator. Our results showed that the indicators had widely varying levels of accuracy. Some show very poor performance and had no discriminatory ability. Other indicators were informative and performed better than random decisions. Among the tested indicators, the best ones were those using information on plant characteristics such as grass height, fraction of diseased flowers, or crop yield. The statistical method applied in this paper could support researchers, farm advisers, and decision makers in comparing various indicators.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S139-S146
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • oilseed rape
  • management
  • models
  • livestock
  • nitrogen
  • systems
  • impact
  • crops
  • birds
  • risk


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