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Terres J.-M.,European Commission - Joint Research Center Ispra | Scacchiafichi L.N.,European Commission - Joint Research Center Ispra | Wania A.,European Commission - Joint Research Center Ispra | Ambar M.,EIP AGRI Service Point | And 10 more authors.
Land Use Policy | Year: 2015

Accounting for more than half of the European Union's (EU) territory, agriculture ensures food production, manages important natural resources and supports socio-economic development of rural areas. Moreover, it is estimated that 50% of all plant and animal species (including some of that are listed in the EU Habitat Directive) depend on agricultural practices. The continuation of appropriate agricultural land management is essential to ensure these primary functions. Avoidance of farmland abandonment is therefore an important rationale for the EU's Common Agricultural Policy which requires improved knowledge of this phenomenon at the European level. This study assesses the risk of farmland abandonment in the 27 EU Member States. It summarizes the work performed by an expert panel of European scientists and national representatives which aimed to identify the main drivers of farmland abandonment in Europe, to define indicators for assessing its risk of occurrence and to test the value of European-wide data sources to achieve these aims. Drivers were identified under two rationales: low farm stability and viability, and negative regional context. Indicators were defined using recent socio-economic farm data and geospatial datasets. Some indicators were then combined to make a composite risk indicator. Regions with higher risk of farmland abandonment are located in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Ireland. This paper demonstrates the challenges of performing a European-wide assessment of a phenomenon influenced by drivers whose effects vary at local levels. Other problems encountered are data heterogeneity in terms of spatial resolution and quality, as well as access to micro-data (local level data). High spatial resolution European datasets measuring farmland abandonment are needed to validate the defined indicators as well as to benchmark the methodology. Furthermore, such data could be used to establish a weighting system for the drivers. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Source


Luscher G.,Institute for Sustainability science | Luscher G.,University of Zurich | Schneider M.K.,Institute for Sustainability science | Turnbull L.A.,University of Zurich | And 7 more authors.
Environmental Science and Policy | Year: 2014

Farmers are key players in actions to halt biodiversity loss from farmland. However, if farmers are to sustain biodiversity, they must first be adequately informed about biodiversity and understand its drivers. Measuring biodiversity at the farm scale is difficult because of the structural complexity of many farms, and because different aspects of diversity can be considered desirable, e.g. species richness or rarity. In this study we examined 19 grassland farms in Central Switzerland, and sampled plants, earthworms, spiders and bees using a stratified sampling design. We considered several metrics of species diversity, but found two particularly useful at farm scale: average richness (area-weighted) and farm uniqueness in terms of species identity. Average richness reflects the expected species richness in a random sample taken on the farm, and farm uniqueness is the contribution of a farm to the total species richness of all farms under study. Average richness and farm uniqueness are complementary and reflect different aspects of biodiversity. We demonstrate how combining these metrics enables tailored recommendations for enhancing species diversity on the farm. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. Source


Targetti S.,Aix - Marseille University | Targetti S.,University of Bologna | Herzog F.,Institute for Sustainability science | Geijzendorffer I.R.,CNRS Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology Marine and Continental | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Environmental Management | Year: 2016

The impact of agricultural management on global biodiversity highlights the need for farm-scale monitoring programmes capable of determining the performance of agriculture practices. Yet the identification of appropriate indicators is a challenging process and one that involves considering a number of different aspects and requirements. Besides the attention given to scientific effectiveness, relevant but less studied issues related to biodiversity measurements include the economic feasibility of monitoring programmes and the relevance of indicators for different end-users. In this paper, we combine an analytic assessment of costs and a stakeholder-based evaluation of the usefulness of a set of biodiversity-related parameters (habitat mapping, vegetation, bees, earthworms, spiders, and a farmer questionnaire) tested for scientific consistency in 12 European case studies and on more than 14,000 ha of farmland. The results point to the possibility of meeting the expectations of different end-users (administrators, farmers and consumers) with a common indicator set. Combining costs and usefulness also suggests the possibility of designing more efficient monitoring approaches involving private agencies and networks of volunteers and farmers for the field data collection at different stages of a monitoring programme. Although complex, such an approach would make it possible to enhance the effectiveness of available funds for farmland biodiversity monitoring. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Source


Last L.,Institute for Sustainability science ISS | Arndorfer M.,University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna | Balazs K.,Szent Istvan University | Dennis P.,Aberystwyth University | And 16 more authors.
Biodiversity and Conservation | Year: 2014

Agrobiodiversity plays a fundamental role in guaranteeing food security. However, still little is known about the diversity within crop and livestock species: the genetic diversity. In this paper we present a set of indicators of crop accession and breed diversity for different farm types at farm-level, which may potentially supply a useful tool to assess and monitor farming system agrobiodiversity in a feasible and relatively affordable way. A generic questionnaire was developed to capture the information on crops and livestock in 12 European case study regions and in Uganda by 203 on-farm interviews. Through a participatory approach, which involved a number of stakeholders, eight potential indicators were selected and tested. Five of them are recommended as potentially useful indicators for agrobiodiversity monitoring per farm: (1) crop-species richness (up to 16 crop species), (2) crop-cultivar diversity (up to 15 crop cultivars, 1–2 on average), (3) type of crop accessions (landraces accounted for 3 % of all crop cultivars in Europe, 31 % in Uganda), (4) livestock-species diversity (up to 5 livestock species), and (5) breed diversity (up to five cattle and eight sheep breeds, on average 1–2).We demonstrated that the selected indicators are able to detect differences between farms, regions and dominant farm types. Given the present rate of agrobiodiversity loss and the dramatic effects that this may have on food production and food security, extensive monitoring is urgent. A consistent survey of crop cultivars and livestock breeds on-farm will detect losses and help to improve strategies for the management and conservation of on-farm genetic resources. © 2014, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. Source


Schneider M.K.,Institute for Sustainability science | Luscher G.,Institute for Sustainability science | Luscher G.,University of Zurich | Jeanneret P.,Institute for Sustainability science | And 40 more authors.
Nature Communications | Year: 2014

Organic farming is promoted to reduce environmental impacts of agriculture, but surprisingly little is known about its effects at the farm level, the primary unit of decision making. Here we report the effects of organic farming on species diversity at the field, farm and regional levels by sampling plants, earthworms, spiders and bees in 1470 fields of 205 randomly selected organic and nonorganic farms in twelve European and African regions. Species richness is, on average, 10.5% higher in organic than nonorganic production fields, with highest gains in intensive arable fields (around +45%). Gains to species richness are partly caused by higher organism abundance and are common in plants and bees but intermittent in earthworms and spiders. Average gains are marginal +4.6% at the farm and +3.1% at the regional level, even in intensive arable regions. Additional, targeted measures are therefore needed to fulfil the commitment of organic farming to benefit farmland biodiversity. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved. Source

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