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Study Examines Impact of Agricultural Greening Measures to Increase Biodiversity in EU

October 7, 2011 |

Agriculture in the European Union (EU) would be better served by slowing down the decline in farmland biodiversity, particularly in intensely farmed areas, according to a comprehensive study entitled, “Greening the Common Agricultural Policy: Impacts on farmland biodiversity on an EU scale,” carried out by PBL Netherlands and Wageningen University & Research Center.

The joint research team sought to measure and quantify potential gains in EU farmland biodiversity and the trade-offs in terms of agricultural production and farm incomes as a result of ‘greening’ the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which determines how much financial assistance and support EU farmers are awarded. The study predicts a continued decline in farmland biodiversity across the EU for the 2014-2020 period if greening measures are not adopted.

The research team’s model forecast (pdf 14MB) indicates that with the inclusion of such greening measures in CAP as payments to producers for setting aside permanent grassland and ecologically diverse areas of land for conservation that EU farmland biodiversity would increase 3% in terms of farmland species richness in 2020 as compared to a baseline scenario that included no ‘greening’ initiatives.

The result assumed extra budget for agri-environmental measures and greening payments for setting aside permanent grassland and areas of natural ecology making up approximately 5% of total arable land.  By retaining permanent grassland, the report notes that producers can further reduce the emission of carbon dioxide from agricultural soils. Setting aside areas of natural ecology for conservation will allow for the formation of a “buffer for agricultural run-off before polluted water drains into ditches or streams, thus improving water quality” wrote the report’s authors. “Greening measures also could benefit the recreational appeal of landscapes, for example, by the construction of green infrastructure. Such infrastructure could also deliver a number of ecosystem services, such as biological pest control.”

The positive effects would be greater in intensely farmed areas, which are poor in terms of biodiversity at present, the report’s authors noted.

“Although greening the CAP would not halt biodiversity loss, it would substantially slow down the decline in farmland biodiversity over the 2014 – 2020 period,” the researchers wrote.

Improving biodiversity, however, would come at a cost of a loss in agricultural production ranging from 2% for grass to 4% for cereal production, which could reduce EU food self-sufficiency.  The report says that the impact of this trade-off could be minimized by allowing farmers to set aside their lowest producing fields for greening measures.

The researchers note that they do not see EU farm incomes falling as a result of efforts to increase biodiversity. Higher prices would more than compensate for the loss in agricultural production, they concluded.

The diversity of farm structure, income, farming intensity and species richness across the EU suggests “that regionally differentiated policies may be more efficient than a one-size-fits-all approach,” note the authors of the report.

SOURCE and Full Report can be found at the following link:

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