high nature value farmland and traditional agricultural landscapes


high nature value farmland and traditional agricultural landscapes

MarIa lUIsa paracchInI • Jean-MIchel Terres •

Jan-erIk peTersen • ybele hooGeVeen

hIGh naTUre ValUe

farMland and

TradITIonal aGrIcUlTUral


open opporTUnITIes In The deVelopMenT of

rUral areas

Agriculture is shaping most of the European landscapes. Its activities started about

8,000 years ago and spread until it reached its maximum extension and covered half of

the European territory. This long history of agricultural land management has lead to

the development of specific agro-ecosystems and associated biodiversity that can only

be maintained under specific agricultural practices.The effects of such agricultural

management cover a range of impacts. On the one hand land allocation, pesticides

and fertilisers can deeply reshape the land and the distribution of flora and fauna,

reducing species richness and abundance; on the other hand, the areas where traditional

agriculture is persisting and the human impacts are less pronounced, are among those

where the highest natural value is preserved. A consequence of the intensification

trends that have characterised the development of agricultural practices during the

20th century and the evolution of many European landscapes is the shift of the main

character of agricultural lands towards intensive farming, with a consequent reduction

of the area hosting a high rate of biodiversity. The awareness of the decline of world (and

particularly European) biodiversity has led to policy actions at different levels aimed

at preserving farming areas characterised by high nature value. The process started in

the early 1990s and has lead firstly to the identification of the concept of “High Nature

Value farmland”, and then to focused policy targets aimed at halting biodiversity loss

in general and of endangered agro-ecosystems in particular. There is an implicit link

between areas of high natural value and traditional agricultural landscapes, though

the two concepts are not fully overlapping. This paper describes how these two concepts

are related and how a first attempt to map High Nature Value farmland in EU27 has

been carried out in order to support the policy action.

Pedroli B, Van Doorn A, De Blust G, Paracchini ML, Wascher D & Bunce F (Eds. 2007).

Europe’s living landscapes. Essays on exploring our identity in the countryside. LANDSCAPE EUROPE / KNNV.

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22 | Chapter 2: Paracchini et al.

Figure 1. Agriculture and landscape development and the effects on floristic

diversity through time (after Stanners and Bordeaux 1995, Vos and Meekes 1999)


Agricultural land covers half of Europe’s territory. In the European context the development of farming traditions

is strongly interlinked with the development of human culture. People have spread across the continent

adapting habits and agricultural practices to local climatic and geographical conditions, and subsequently

adapting them for their own subsistence. In such a process plant and animal resources were directly dependent

upon human land management, thus they partially evolved under the influence of farming practices,

which are part of local culture and knowledge (as was well explained by Publius Virgilius Maro over 2,000

years ago).

Throughout the centuries, this led to a rich cultural and natural heritage that was reflected in a wide

variety of traditional agricultural landscapes, most of which preserved their traditional character until the Industrial

Revolution. Until then farmers derived most of their needs from the immediate surroundings of their

farms, usually with a mixed farming system, combining cultivation of crops and livestock rearing.

Technological development, mechanisation, agro-chemicals and, more recently, genetic discoveries allowed

steadily increasing yields and led to structural changes in farming. Consequently, human influence

started to leave a more important footprint in the landscape: in particular radical changes occurred in management

practices after World War II. Such processes were accelerated by the entry into force of the Common

Agricultural Policy in 1957, whose original objective was to secure food production for the Countries of the

EEC in the post-war period. By supporting agricultural production through the provision of subsidies, it was

the main driver of technological improvement. The landscape changes that followed were sometimes dramatic

(e.g., intensification and simplification of crop rotations in large parts of the European lowlands, considerable

loss of semi-natural grasslands and of bocage landscapes), with a consequent change in the distribution and

composition of the habitats that characterised the traditional agricultural landscape, which had for centuries

maintained a significant part of European biodiversity.

The role of cultural influences is evident in this frame: local knowledge and culture are identified among

the main characteristics of traditional agri-ecosystems, their richness is the fruit of cultural diversity and it is

widely recognised that the analysis of traditional agricultural landscapes should not be carried out separately

from the culture that nurtures them (Altieri 1990).

Such systems share some common properties: they are characterised by production cycles that receive

low inputs, produce relatively low outputs in relation to the carrying capacity of the land, are usually labour intensive

and are economically and ecologically sustainable (Pienkowski 2006); they combine a high number of

species and structural diversity in time and space, and maintain closed cycles of materials and wastes through

effective recycling practices (e.g., use of waste as fertiliser). According to Baldock et al. (1995) they can be

Figure 2. Link between High Nature Value

farmland and traditional agricultural


Pedroli B, Van Doorn A, De Blust G, Paracchini ML, Wascher D & Bunce F (Eds. 2007).

Europe’s living landscapes. Essays on exploring our identity in the countryside. LANDSCAPE EUROPE / KNNV.

Figure 3. General relationship between agricultural intensity and

biodiversity (source: after Hoogeveen at al 2001 in EEA 2004)

Figure 4a. Trends in farmland birds – (http://www.ebcc.info/pecbm.html) Figure 4b. N-fertiliser input (Source: EEA)

categorised into livestock systems, arable and permanent crop systems, and mixed systems. Typical examples

include semi-natural grasslands, olive trees and vines under traditional management, traditional orchards,

fallow land, wood pastures, and bocage. Management practices also share some common characteristics: the

use of terraces (typical of the Mediterranean area) and hedgerows, minimal tillage, mulching, small field sizes

and long fallow cycles (Altieri 1990).

TradITIonal landscapes, hIGh naTUre

ValUe farMland and bIodIVersITy

It is only in recent decades that the link between traditional European agricultural landscapes and biodiversity

has been investigated and the importance of European agri-biodiversity recognised. The term “High Nature

Value farmland” was introduced at the beginning of the 1990s (Baldock et al. 1993, Beaufoy et al. 1994) referring

to the low input farming systems associated with high biodiversity. The concept was further developed

by Andersen et al. (2003), who coined the definition “areas in Europe where agriculture is a major (usually the

dominant) land use and where that agriculture supports, or is associated with, either a high species and habitat

diversity or the presence of species of European conservation concern, or both”.

Areas of High Nature Value farmland largely overlap with traditional agricultural landscapes, having

as common denominator low input farming systems. A more detailed quantification (in spatial and typological

terms) of such overlap is hardly feasible, since no comprehensive guide exists of European traditional

landscapes (Zimmermann 2006), and currently available descriptions of farming systems maintaining HNV

farmland (EEA 2004) are still too crude for this purpose, or only locally available (Paracchini et al. 2007).

Furthermore, the link with the cultural elements or traditions that have generated such systems is often only

known locally.

The high degree of biodiversity that characterises HNV farmland areas was built up over millennia of

anthropic land management, during which agri-ecosystems developed in conjunction with human culture.

The European Community Action Plan for Biodiversity in Agriculture (2001) identifies three dimensions

of agricultural biodiversity: the genetic variety of domesticated plants and animals, wild biodiversity

(wild flora and fauna related to farmland) and life support systems (soil organisms, pollinators, predators). The

present chapter deals with the second category: wild flora and fauna or wildlife and habitats in the terminology

adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity. Furthermore, a distinction is made between species

diversity within the agricultural system and the contribution to overall species diversity at a higher spatial

scale, including the effects of agriculture on surrounding natural systems (Hoogeveen 2002).

The maintenance of agricultural habitats with high natural value is restricted to a limited range of agricultural

inputs (Figure 3), which gives HNV systems a high degree of instability (Plieninger et al. 2006). The

Pedroli B, Van Doorn A, De Blust G, Paracchini ML, Wascher D & Bunce F (Eds. 2007).

Europe’s living landscapes. Essays on exploring our identity in the countryside. LANDSCAPE EUROPE / KNNV.

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2 | Chapter 2: Paracchini et al.

Figure 5. Alpine meadow (Rado Bonk)

main threats that are widely identified for HNV systems are land abandonment and intensification, which

lie at opposite extremes of the scale of intensity of management. When the level of management decreases

and eventually stops, natural vegetation invades agricultural biotopes; this provokes a change of biodiversity

characteristics, and in any case leads to the loss of semi-natural habitats that require some degree of human

intervention for their survival. More intensive management also causes the disappearance of biodiverse agricultural

habitats through a higher use of fertilisers (organic and inorganic) and pesticides, which cause a simplification

of floristic diversity, and through the physical adaptation of the land to the use of heavy machinery

(removal of hedges and other structural features, increasing field sizes). In addition, the change in the natural

hydro-chemical cycle as a result of fertilisation, drainage and irrigation systems (De Rijck and Oikos 2006) can

lead to soil salinisation, alkalinisation and desertification with consequent species loss (IUCN 2000).

recenT Trends In hnV farMland

The development of agriculture, the changes in socio-economic conditions throughout Europe and the implementation

of the Common Agricultural Policy have caused a general loss of High Nature Value farmland and

associated landscapes, especially in the post-war period. To a certain extent a polarisation process started in

those years, leading to intensification of farming practices on fertile soils and land abandonment in marginal

areas. The CAP in particular is seen as a major driver of such processes, since it initially did not allow farmers

compensation for the environmental services that they could provide. Only some decades later (in the early

nineties) was environmental concern introduced into the CAP, and it now faces criticism that, within the

EU15, HNV farmland areas often exist today despite the CAP rather than because of it (Jack 2006). It is in any

case evident that such areas survived in environments less suited to intensification (marginal areas).

Since there is no biodiversity monitoring scheme for agri-ecosystems, the analysis of past trends of

HNV farmland cannot be carried out on the continental scale, but only at a local level, or on specific ecosystems,

or through biodiversity indicators. Semi-natural grasslands are an important feature of European HNV

farmland and are therefore often used as a reference habitat for monitoring HNV trends, since they host a

considerable part of European agri-biodiversity. According to Beaufoy et al. (1994), in their analysis of nine

European countries, more than half of low intensity farming is in fact constituted by grazing systems: this

figure is even an underestimate for France, where almost 70% of HNV farmland comprises grazing systems

(Paracchini et al. 2007). As already mentioned, a major part of these systems has already disappeared. Van

Dijk (2001) estimated that in the UK 97% of lowland semi-natural grasslands has been lost since 1930, while

in the Netherlands only 1.7% of the permanent grassland is semi-natural, and possibly less. Furthermore,

in the New Member States an average of 26% (maximum 60%) of the semi-natural grassland is currently

abandoned (IEEP et al. 2004). In Spain the construction of irrigation systems substantially transformed approximately

15,000 km 2 of low-intensity farmland in the period 1973-1996. As far as biodiversity indicators

are concerned, bird data are also commonly used to detect trends in HNV farmland (van Strien et al, 2001;

Gregory et al, 2005). The European Farmland Birds Indicator (Figure4a) shows a general decline in biodiversity

of agricultural lands, more evident in the EU15.

This can be related to both loss of farmland (due to e.g., urbanisation, or conversion to forest) and to

changes in ecosystem conditions (intensification/abandonment). In this regard, the recovery in EU10 in the

early nineties is generally related to a consistent drop in fertiliser/pesticide use following the political changes

of 1989 (Figure 4b).

However, it is difficult to relate this general trend strictly to High Nature Value farmland. Trends are

more clearly interpretable when target species are analysed: for example, the corncrake (Crex crex) population

in the UK declined by 86% in the period 1970-1993. One of the recognised factors causing such a sustained

decline is the loss of traditional grassland habitat mosaics; especially tall vegetation throughout the breeding

season. The corn bunting (Miliaria calandra) showed a 76% decline in the breeding population between 1968

and 1991 in the UK, caused by the loss of extensive mixed farming, while increased herbicide and fertiliser use

has reduced the abundance of wildflower seeds and the availability of insects (UK Biodiversity Action Plan).

The grey partridge (Perdix perdix) declined by over 50% between 1969-1990 in the UK and 30% in Western

Pedroli B, Van Doorn A, De Blust G, Paracchini ML, Wascher D & Bunce F (Eds. 2007).

Europe’s living landscapes. Essays on exploring our identity in the countryside. LANDSCAPE EUROPE / KNNV.

and Central Europe (Birdlife Europe), due to the loss of nest sites (such as hedge bottoms), resulting from

farm intensification, and to reduced food supplies (including sources for chick food) caused by the use of

pesticides and herbicides (UK Biodiversity Action Plan).

polIcy fraMework

The recording of such losses and a rising awareness of the urgent need to stop such trends have led to a recognition

of the importance of High Nature Value farmland areas; not only from a scientific viewpoint, but at

high levels in the political arena as well. In the Resolution on Biodiversity of the Pan European ministerial

conference Environment for Europe in Kiev, May 2003 and the Message from Malahide, resulting from the

EU Conference on Biodiversity in May 2004, the European Environment Ministers committed themselves to

identifying high nature value farmland areas by 2006, and to have favourable management of a substantial

proportion of it in place by 2008. In the Communication on ‘Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010’ (COM

(2006) 216) the key actions identified include optimising the available resources under the reformed Common

Agricultural Policy to, inter alea, prevent intensification and abandonment of High Nature Value farmland.

The Community Strategic Guidelines for Rural Development (Axis 2) emphasises the preservation and development

of high nature value farmland and forestry and traditional agricultural landscapes as one of the

priority areas of Rural Development. Furthermore, HNV farmland is one of the agri-environmental indicators

identified within the Common Monitoring and Evaluation Framework (CMEF) for Rural Development,

as well as in COM(2000)20: Indicators for the Integration of Environmental Concerns into the Common

Agricultural Policy; and COM(2006)508: Development of agri-environmental indicators for monitoring the

integration of environmental concerns into the common agricultural policy.

This convergence of policy requirements has provoked some positive action in terms of HNV farmland

mapping at the EU level, which tangibly started in 2003 with an initiative by the European Environment


Figure 6. Extensive grazing in Southern Ireland (Markku Siitonen)

Pedroli B, Van Doorn A, De Blust G, Paracchini ML, Wascher D & Bunce F (Eds. 2007).

Europe’s living landscapes. Essays on exploring our identity in the countryside. Landscape Europe publication.

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26 | Chapter 2: Paracchini et al.

Figure 7. Oland Island (Sweden) (Andreas Brink) Figure 8. Italian wet meadow (marcita) (Maria Luisa Paracchini) Figure 9. Wet meadow, Biebrza National Park, Poland (natural vegetation

on the right quickly invades the areas not subjected to regular cuts)

(Ariel Brunner)

TypoloGy of hnV farMland

The knowledge on the processes that generate and maintain HNV farmland areas is diffuse; much is known

from a theoretical point of view, some typologies of landscapes are also well identified and documented (e.g.,

Spanish dehesas, see the Perez-Soba chapter in this book), but a more rigorous and shared definition of what

characterises an area as HNV, and a more general knowledge on where such areas are located in Europe, and

which trends they are following, is needed in order to fulfil the above mentioned political requirements and

meet the 2010 target of halting biodiversity loss.

High Nature Value farmland comprises the areas in the rural landscapes where farming supports high

biodiversity in terms of species and habitats, of which three main categories can be distinguished:

• Type 1: farmland with a high proportion of semi-natural vegetation

• Type 2: farmland with a mosaic of low intensity agriculture and natural and structural elements, such as

field margins, hedgerows, stone walls, patches of woodland or scrub, and small rivers

• Type 3: farmland supporting rare species or a high proportion of European or World populations

(Adapted after Andersen et al. 2004)

Areas classified under type 1 (Figs. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) are generally very species-rich, by definition require

extensive agriculture for their maintenance and have a well recognised conservation value. This typology is

represented by the semi-natural grasslands in steppic areas of Eastern Europe or in mountain areas, Spanish

dehesas, Portuguese montados, and extensively grazed uplands in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The second type is distinguished because small-scale variations in land use and vegetation, and low

agricultural inputs, are generally associated with relatively high species richness (Figs. 11, 12, 13, 14). In this

case it is the landscape structure that mostly characterises HNV areas. The farmed habitats within this type

may not necessarily qualify as semi-natural, but the management should be sufficiently extensive to allow for

floristic variation. Such areas include, e.g., Mediterranean traditional olive groves and vineyards on terraces;

bocage landscape types with clear hedgerow patterns; landscapes typical of Eastern countries characterised by

long, narrow fields (reflecting the former need to avoid reversing the horse-drawn plough too often) and the

presence of field margins.

The third type comprises areas hosting rare species (this refers to both flora and fauna): examples of type

3 are extensive farming areas, as shown in Figure 9, Figure 10, and Figure 14, which represent three completely

different types of landscapes. The first is a wet meadow in Poland, the second a Spanish dehesa, the third a

small mosaic landscape typical of the Mediterranean, with a mixture of grazed macchia and extensive olive

groves. These landscapes have in common the fact that they are all classified as Important Bird Areas (IBA).

This HNV type is distinguished because, at a local level, more intensive farming systems may also support high

concentrations of plant and animal species of conservation concern. Some rare bird species such as wintering

geese can be found in agricultural areas with low vegetation and habitat diversity (i.e., Norfolk). Rice fields are

Pedroli B, Van Doorn A, De Blust G, Paracchini ML, Wascher D & Bunce F (Eds. 2007).

Europe’s living landscapes. Essays on exploring our identity in the countryside. LANDSCAPE EUROPE / KNNV.

also classified as HNV farmland when they occur within an IBA (Figure15) or a NATURA2000 site.

Although it is necessary for an area to correspond to one of these typologies in order to be characterised

as HNV farmland, the three types are not mutually exclusive. Semi-natural grasslands shown in Figure 7 and

Figure 9 support rare species (a peculiarity of this land cover type) and both qualify as type 1 and 3, since they

are either a NATURA2000 site or an IBA, or an Important Plant Area (IPA). The landscape shown in Figure 14

(Mediterranean mosaic landscape) is both type 2 and type 3. In addition, the farmed habitats in type 2 may be

partly semi-natural and would thus also qualify as type 1. A high contribution to biodiversity at the European

level should be common to all types.

The typology and the definition of the classes have been thoroughly discussed by national experts and

representatives of the Agriculture and Environment Ministries, and mostly reflect the wide variety of HNV

environments in Europe. It has therefore been retained in further mapping approaches at the EU scale.

MappInG hIGh naTUre ValUe farMland

In eUrope

The Andersen et al. study showed that available biodiversity data at the European level are insufficient for

thorough mapping, therefore two proxy approaches for identifying HNV farmland were proposed, based on

land cover data (CORINE 1990) and farm system data (FADN). Feedback from experts and countries has

shown that further specification of the criteria applied in the land cover approach was necessary. Therefore,

in the period 2005/2007, the JRC and EEA updated the methodology based on land cover data. This work

was supported by national experts and representatives from the Environment or Agricultural Ministries who

revised the maps for their respective countries and suggested ways to improve the methodology at regional

or local level. The mapping methodology is based on European environmental datasets, which are integrated

to cover as much as possible of the three types of HNV farmland. One of the reasons for this approach is that

European datasets are updated regularly (though on different time-scales).

The basis of the mapping exercise is provided by the CORINE Land Cover (CLC) map for the year

2000 (EEA 2005). A regionally differentiated selection is made of habitats where HNV farmland may be expected,

based on the Environmental Stratification of Europe (Metzger et al. 2005). For each combination of

country and environmental zone, experts selected those CLC classes that are likely to contain primarily HNV

land. This reflects the fact that, due to environmental characteristics and management practices, a CLC class

(e.g., “land principally occupied by agriculture”) can differ greatly across countries and environmental zones

in terms of its natural value.

Figure 10. Spanish dehesa (Clare Miller) Figure 11. Traditional Polish landscape, south-west of Poznan

(Jerzy Karg)

Pedroli B, Van Doorn A, De Blust G, Paracchini ML, Wascher D & Bunce F (Eds. 2007).

Europe’s living landscapes. Essays on exploring our identity in the countryside. LANDSCAPE EUROPE / KNNV.

Figure 12. Traditional lentil crop in Piana

di Castelluccio, Monti Sibillini Natural Park

(Italy) (Andreas Brink)

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2 | Chapter 2: Paracchini et al.

Figure 13. Lemon gardens – Amalfi coast, Italy (Maria Luisa Paracchini) Figure 14. Les Alpilles (France) – Mediterranean grazed macchia and extensive olive groves

(Ariel Brunner)

Although this approach is constructed to ensure a harmonised result throughout Europe, it so happens that

the internal variation within a land cover class (often due to an extensive environmental zone) is so large that

the class only contains HNV farmland in some parts of the zone. In order to map HNV farmland correctly

in such cases ad-hoc rules have been introduced. These consist, for example, of the use of a digital elevation

model to map land cover classes differently according to altitude (e.g., natural grasslands above a certain altitude

are not maintained by agricultural use, olive groves in mountainous areas tend to be extensive), and the

use of soil maps in the Netherlands to identify grasslands on peat soils; which are important for over-wintering

and breeding birds and often rich in landscape elements (known as Green-Blue Features).

The land cover approach adopted for HNV type 1 (and partly type 2) allows an approximation of the

localisation of semi-natural vegetation, mosaics of low-intensity agriculture, and linear elements.

In order to cover HNV type 3, information is needed on the location of farmland which supports rare

species or a high proportion of European or World populations. This is gathered from various sources:

• NATURA 2000 network, which provides information on protected sites that support rare, endangered or

vulnerable natural habitats and species of plants or animals (areas designated under the Habitats Directive)

and areas supporting significant numbers of wild birds and their habitats (protected sites designated under

the Birds Directive)

• Important Bird Areas, which provides information on significant populations of one or more globally or

regionally threatened, endemic or congregatory bird species, or highly representative bird assemblages

(data compiled by BirdLife International and partners); Important Bird Areas were selected on the basis of

standard criteria agreed by the international BirdLife network. In Europe, the criteria take into account the

requirements of regional conservation treaties such as the Emerald Network under the Bern Convention,

the Helsinki Convention, the Barcelona Convention, as well as the Wild Birds Directive of the European


• Prime Butterfly Areas (Van Swaay and Warren 2003), which are an initial selection of important butterfly

areas in Europe, focussing on target species that are conservation priorities across the European continent,

and including both marginal and core populations

• The Important Plant Areas programme, which is promoted and coordinated by Plantlife, an international

NGO, also acting as a secretary to the Planta Europa network. Its aim is to identify the prime sites for plants

across the continent of Europe, and to provide a network of sites within each European bio-geographic

Pedroli B, Van Doorn A, De Blust G, Paracchini ML, Wascher D & Bunce F (Eds. 2007).

Europe’s living landscapes. Essays on exploring our identity in the countryside. LANDSCAPE EUROPE / KNNV.

zone which are critical for the long-term viability of naturally occurring wild plant populations. With support

from national agencies as well as private funds, a number of IPA inventories have been made in the

following countries: Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia.

• National biodiversity datasets (as far as these could be obtained)

These databases required some analysis because none of them was created for the purpose of monitoring

HNV farmland areas. Therefore the designated areas have been reselected on the basis of subsets of

habitats (NATURA2000 – Annex I) and species (IBA and PBA), that are considered indicative of high nature

value farmland

Plant species and other taxonomic groups are not covered in the species list and, since a habitat approach

is preferable to a selection procedure based on individual species, an attempt will be made to incorporate

Important Plant Area data (though these are not extensively available over Europe). With regard to fauna;

birds and butterflies were chosen because IBA and PBA data are harmonised according to common European

criteria. Furthermore, the dependence on agriculture of both species groups is very different and acts at different

spatial scales, and both groups are somewhat complementary. Information on mammals would be

relevant, but since data with European coverage are not available, a selection of habitats from the Annex II of

the Habitat Directive (animal and plant species of Community interest whose conservation requires the designation

of special areas of conservation) will be added to the map on the basis of the Natura2000 database.

National inventories of agricultural biotopes or semi-natural grasslands (e.g., in the Czech Republic,

Sweden, Estonia, and Lithuania) have been added where the HNV patterns are significant from an EU perspective,

but due to their size cannot be captured by the presented land cover approach. An example of this is

the parcels of semi-natural grasslands scattered through forested environments in the Nordic countries.

The applied approach aimed to provide a proxy indicator, at the EU scale, of areas where HNV farmland

is located. This is considered to be a representation of the probability of HNV farmland occurring rather than

its real distribution.

There are evident limitations to this approach, and these mainly lie in the characteristics of the CORINE

land cover data. Its minimum mappable area (25 ha) is too crude for detecting small scale mosaics and linear

features relevant for HNV farmland. Identifying HNV farmland type 2 on the basis of CORINE is therefore

problematic. This is apparent in many countries, but particularly in Sweden, Finland, Malta and the UK,

where small plots of HNV farmland are scattered, either in areas of more intensive use or in forested areas.

CORINE land cover mixed classes go some way to mapping these. Where this is not the case national data are

necessary. In the case of Germany a different approach was adopted: the Map of Landscape Types (Federal

Agency for Nature Conservation 2004) was used to identify HNV areas, with reference to the classification of

landscapes according to value levels to determine their conservation importance.

Secondly, the CORINE map was not designed to provide information on the intensity of management,

which is an important aspect, especially in the grasslands/pastures category. Some attempts have been made

to overcome this problem (e.g., modelling constraints for mechanisation via soil suitability), but only partial

solutions were provided. The question remains unresolved from a modelling point of view, but can be overcome

once data, at an appropriate scale (province or municipality), on fertiliser input, or maps of semi-natural

or valuable grasslands are available.

The methodology provides consistent results across Europe, although they can only be considered an

approximation, and offers the possibility of development when new CORINE data, and updates of other data

sets, become available.

More precise mapping results can be achieved on the basis of further national datasets and/or by including

information on farming practices. The Farm Structure Survey can provide substantial information at

a municipal level, and also allows the identification of the farming systems that maintain HNV areas (Paracchini

et al. 2007), but such data are not available yet at the EU level. Information on parcel size and socio-economic

data (e.g., age of farmers and population trends) would complete the picture.

Figure 16 shows the distribution of HNV farmland in EU27. The data presented here aim at showing the

distribution of HNV farmland areas in Europe based on a consistent methodology for all countries. Work is

also ongoing for defining an indicator on ‘high nature value farmland and forestry’ in the context of evaluating

EU rural development programmes. This rural development indicator will integrate not only the “state”

of HNV areas (as presented in Figure 16) but also “driving forces” (e.g. management systems) supporting and

maintaining HNV farmland and forestry.

Pedroli B, Van Doorn A, De Blust G, Paracchini ML, Wascher D & Bunce F (Eds. 2007).

Europe’s living landscapes. Essays on exploring our identity in the countryside. LANDSCAPE EUROPE / KNNV.

Figure 15. Egretta garzetta in a rice

field (F.Giudici/Archivio LIPU)

| 2

At prius ignotum ferro quam

scindimus aequor, ventos et

varium caeli praediscere morem

cura sit ac patrios cultusqu(e)

habitusque locorum, et quid

quaeque ferat regi(o) et quid

quaeque recuset.

Hic segetes, illic veniunt

felicius uvae, arborei fetus

alib(i) atqu(e) iniussa virescunt


Publius Virgilius Maro,

70 BC - 19 BC

And before we plough the unknown

land with the iron share,

let us care to learn the direction

of the winds and the inconstant

behaviour of the skies, the

traditional cultivations and the

characteristics of the sites

and what each region is

producing, and what is not.

Here the fodders, there the

vineyards grow luxuriant,

further the produces from

the woods and spontaneously


(Translation ML Paracchini)

30 | Chapter 2: Paracchini et al.

Figure 16. HNV – EU27 map – 1000 m resolution (Note: This map is subject to further improvement. Important Bird Areas will be reselected on the

basis of an updated list of HNV farmland birds. In addition, refinements on the basis of national datsets may be carried out).

open challenGes for TradITIonal

aGrIcUlTUral landscapes

Currently the HNV farmland areas and associated traditional landscapes located on fertile soils have largely

disappeared, most of the remaining HNV is nowadays associated with marginal lands. This becomes clear if

the map in Figure 16 is compared with the map of Less Favoured Areas (Fig17); in particular a detailed study of

France showed that 90% of French HNV farmland is included in Less Favoured Areas (Paracchini et al. 2007).

These vulnerable habitats and landscapes were created by rural communities and, in order to maintain

them, farmers must have the possibility of making a living without intensifying their management practices.

This is only possible if farmers are made aware of their role; which goes beyond the use of the land for food

production; and if sufficient income can be generated from traditional agriculture, through direct or indirect

compensation. By-products of agriculture include a number of non-commodity outputs which might be classified

as public goods, many of which are related to landscape values: biodiversity, cultural heritage, amenity

value of the landscape, recreation/access, scientific/educational value (Romstad et al. 2000). This concept is

Pedroli B, Van Doorn A, De Blust G, Paracchini ML, Wascher D & Bunce F (Eds. 2007).

Europe’s living landscapes. Essays on exploring our identity in the countryside. LANDSCAPE EUROPE / KNNV.

Figure 17. The map shows the distribution of communes in Europe, i.e. Local Administrative Unit 2 (Nuts 5) that have been classified under the current

legislation, as being eligible for Less Favoured Aarea support for the 4 categories. Please note that the map shows communes in which all (total) or part

of the communes (partially) are eligible for LFA support. The percentage of the total number of communes eligible by the different articles, is shown in

brackets in the legend

well explained in the EC Info-Paper “Contribution of the European Community on the Multifunctional Character

of Agriculture” (EC 1999), where it is stated that “while over the centuries, the development of agricultural

skills and techniques as well as structural adjustment have led to gains in productivity and competitiveness, it has

also had the effect of producing and safeguarding landscape, which has become a public good in its own right”.

The recognition, promotion and support of the multifunctional role of agriculture is therefore one of the ways

to safeguard landscapes and biodiversity associated with HNV farmland. This can have different facets, such

as the production of specific products (e.g., cheese, meat, olive oil, and wine) recognised under the Protected

Designation of Origin (PDO). An example from France shows that most of the farms producing PDO products

are located in HNV areas (Paracchini et al. 2007). Such products have precise specifications, which in the

French case include: preservation of local breeds, maintenance of a minimum of traditional orchards for cider,

a ban on silage and maize for animal feed, restrictions on milk production per cow, restrictions of feedstuff per

cow, yield limitation on olive oil. These constraints clearly discourage intensification of the farm systems and

indirectly protect traditional landscapes; while the PDO label gives added value to local products, contributing

to the viability of the farm.

Another possibility, often associated with PDO labelling, is agri-tourism: “A beautiful landscape maintained

by traditional farming practices is an input to tourist trade” (Bonnieux et al. 2006). Agri-tourism has had

a rapid growth in recent years, including in the New Member States. It is promoted within Rural Development

Policies as a way to diversify farm income; in the wording of the Commissioners Franz Fischler and David Byrne

Pedroli B, Van Doorn A, De Blust G, Paracchini ML, Wascher D & Bunce F (Eds. 2007).

Europe’s living landscapes. Essays on exploring our identity in the countryside. LANDSCAPE EUROPE / KNNV.

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32 | Chapter 2: Paracchini et al.

(Europa chats 06/06/2001): “Combining several possibilities, primary production, environmental services, agritourism

makes the multifunctional farmer into a rural entrepreneur”. This means that the mentality of the farmer

has to change when new possibilities arise, but also that the change requires a different type of expertise.

EU policies afford other opportunities. In relation to biodiversity, financial aid to the farmers is given

through a variety of compensation systems, which include Natura2000 payments, to support Less Favoured

Areas and Agri-Environmental schemes. However, none of these instruments is specifically targeted at HNV

farmland therefore, although the final goal is clear (halting biodiversity loss by 2010), the policy tools still

need a better targeting and associated funding, especially for the wider countryside (Jack 2006). The situation

is even less clear for traditional agricultural landscapes. These are associated with high nature value farming

areas within the Community Strategic Guidelines for Rural Development, where a specific objective of Axis 2

is to “Improve the environment and the countryside by supporting land management”. Within this frame, one of

the three EU level priority areas is identified as “biodiversity, and preservation and development of high nature

value farming and forestry systems and traditional agricultural landscapes”. Also in this case the reference is indirect,

and mostly linked to the points mentioned above. In this frame, any support for HNV farmland would

be relevant for the maintenance of traditional agricultural landscapes.

conclUsIons and oUTlook

The challenge for the future of High Nature Value farmland areas and associated landscapes, and their available

opportunities, is an inherent part of the development of rural areas as a whole. Scenario studies point at

demographic trends as a major driver for change (SCENAR 2020, EC 2007). Depopulation is partly generated

by outward-migration of younger generations in peripheral areas (the Mediterranean, Northern and Eastern

Europe); which generates land abandonment and affects HNV farmland, which is largely located in those

areas. Conflicting trends seem to characterise the Eastern part of Europe, where land abandonment and renewed

intensification may occur in parallel (EEA 2004).

It is foreseen that, for Europe as a whole, the area under extensive grazing will decrease, which will

cause a corresponding decrease in the proportion of HNV farmland; although loss of agricultural land does

not necessarily affect only HNV areas. Forested areas will increase, with an associated shift in biodiversity.

Fragmentation is also causing a loss of natural environmental value. In France, during the period 1982-2003,

the proportion of artificial land surfaces per person increased by 30%. In general, this involved loss of the best

agricultural soils, but it also caused a loss of areas (or elements) of high natural value (alpine pastures, natural

grasslands, hedges, traditional orchards and scattered trees - Pointereau 2006). On the other hand there is a

positive trend in the reduction of agricultural pressure on the environment (technological development, cross

compliance, cost savings, increased organic agriculture), which will affect the more productive areas. This will

not transform areas with low natural value into HNV, but it will have a beneficial effect on the overall rural

territory. It is difficult to assess the effects of the increase in farm sizes, but it is likely to have negative impacts

on areas of high natural value, since it is normally associated with a change in farming practices, that leads to

intensification. It is impossible to analyse briefly the complex pattern of future agricultural developments, but

it is clear that it will be very difficult to maintain HNV farmland areas without a specific, supportive policy

framework; which should be regionally differentiated, in order to take into account the structural and agricultural

differences of European regions. It is also essential to find the right balance between subsidising the

production of agricultural goods and widening the target to include compensation for and promotion of noncommodity

outputs: which include the maintenance of traditional landscapes and support for biodiversity.


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