Change in agricultural land use is a major cause of the decline of biodiversity in Europe. This is characterised by widespread intensification of farming systems on better land, and abandonment or afforestation of poorer land. More traditional, low‑intensity farming systems with high nature value are gradually disappearing.
In the Kyiv Resolution on Biodiversity (2003), the European Environment Ministers agreed to identify High Nature Value (HNV) farmland in Europe and to put adequate conservation measures in place to stop this trend. The European Commission has highlighted the importance of using the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to prevent the abandonment and intensification of HNV farmland, as a key action to halt the decline in biodiversity.
Agricultural change is driven by socio-economic and technological trends, climatic conditions, as well as the EU policy framework. The most important policy influence is the CAP, which has an EU budget of roughly 53 billion EUR per year. This is equivalent to an annual expenditure of approximately 290 EUR/ha of Utilised Agricultural Area (UAA (1)) across the EU as a whole. This report reviews whether this considerable intervention, and the way in which it is targeted, is likely to favour the maintenance of High Nature Value farmland. As such it is a follow‑up of the preliminary assessment, published by UNEP and EEA in 2004.
This report is produced in the context of wider EU debate on the future of the CAP (2). This debate is informed by several different and sometimes conflicting considerations, including ensuring food security in the context of a growing world
population and new conditions associated with climate change; the need to adapt to the scarcity of natural resources (water in particular), and the need to preserve biological diversity. While relevant to this wider debate, the analysis presented in this document focuses on one specific question: the potential for support from CAP funds for HNV farmland as part of wider biodiversity.
Whereas farmland under intensive production also supports a certain level of biodiversity, including high nature value features, it does generally not contain significant areas of High Nature Value. As a consequence, this report does not deal with wider farming-biodiversity issues, such as conserving or improving biodiversity on intensively farmed land,
nor does it look into other environmental issues, such as water and soil conservation.
The current analysis is based on an updated definition and identification of HNV farmland in Europe (Paracchini et al., 2008), and combines two approaches:
- a spatial analysis at European level of the targeting of CAP payments in 2000–2006 to countries and regions (3) with a high share of HNV farmland;
- a case study-based assessment within selected Member States of detailed expenditure patterns across farming types and measures, and their combined influence on supporting HNV farming.