EEA Report Suggests CAP Reform Should Address Biodiversity Issues

A new report released by the European Environment Agency (EEA) highlights the upcoming CAP reform as an important opportunity to address the existing shortcomings of the agricultural sector in terms of biodiversity. It includes a key recommendation that agricultural policy should promote the creation and maintenance of more diverse agricultural landscapes, and that the forthcoming CAP reform provides an ideal opportunity for biodiversity to be integrated more effectively. The report is the seventh in a series of ’10 messages for 2010’ produced by the EEA and was published on the 30 June.

Report recognises pressures on biodiversity

The report recognises the intensification and abandonment of agricultural land as key drivers of biodiversity loss in rural landscapes. However, while the role that the CAP plays in contributing to the prevention of abandonment was highlighted, a lack of clear benefits to biodiversity from the policy arose as a key message of the publication. Sharp declines of common farmland birds between 1980 and 1990 (although populations have recently been levelling off), and grassland butterfly populations from 1990 were just two indicators used in the report to demonstrate this point.

HNV highlighted

Special emphasis was placed in the report on agricultural land of high nature value (HNV). These systems are typically characterised by low-intensity farming practices, and the EEA recognises the risk of abandonment posed to these areas together with the comparative lack of biodiversity in contrasting intensively managed agricultural land. This is important in wider CAP debates due to the large overlap between HNV farmland and designated Less Favoured Areas (LFAs) in the EU. The current debate over changes to the LFA measure, and recent hints by Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolo? that the LFA measure may be moved from the Pillar One to Pillar Two of the CAP give further relevance to the EEA’s analysis.

EEA policy suggestions

Overall the report recognises two key points with regard to agriculture. Firstly, that policy should support the creation and maintenance of diverse agricultural landscapes as biodiversity underpins processes and ecosystem services essential to the sector. Secondly, that ‘it is difficult to advocate halting agricultural intensification completely on land with high production potential’, and therefore a major challenge for biodiversity conservation is to introduce buffering elements into intensively managed farms to enhance landscape complexity.

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19 Jul 2010