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The agricultural, ecological and socio-economic importance of free-ranging livestock rearing in Europe

The majority of 'high nature value' livestock systems are now confined to mountainous areas of Europe. Extensive livestock rearing systems are a policy priority because they are fundamental for maintaining a wide range of habitats and species. However, before appropriate policies can be put in place, it is essential to understand how such systems function and this project will bring together experts from across Europe to achieve this.

The objectives of this project are:
1) to advance understanding of how habitats and species function, the agricultural and ecological interactions and current policy-driving forces
2) to bring together individuals from all over Europe with a range of backgrounds and disciplines to achieve several goals: consolidate present knowledge, identify the gaps that need to be filled, and build up a network of researchers and contacts with the complementary expertise to fill those gaps.

Progress to Date
Four main meetings were held over two years. All the meetings integrated field-visits with formal discussion sessions to provide delegates with opportunities to speak directly to shepherds, landowners and local experts. In this way, the delegates were able to obtain a first-hand impression of what the management practices consist of, how these link to produce the environmental conditions of biodiversity value, and what the key issues are affecting the continued viability of the enterprises.

It was clear that one of the major threats to high nature value pastoral systems is that there is a widespread misconception that these pastoral systems are not necessary from a biodiversity perspective.

It was also evident that there is a lack of detailed knowledge of how many of these systems function, especially with regard to the intimate relationships between the timing and type of farming practices and the biodiversity value.

In addition, to be sustainable in the long term, an understanding is required of the socio-economic and cultural aspects associated with the different farming practices. Socio-economic factors, such as the viability of a farming operation or the willingness of farmers to continue certain practices, will often be the main driving force behind whether the long-established management practices associated with the pastoral systems will be maintained or not.

A series of eight brief Information Notes and an accompanying video have been produced from the PASTORAL project. These are intended to provide an overview of the discussions at the project meetings and to serve as a brief introduction to some of the issues facing pastoralism in Europe today. Copies of each of these Information Notes can be downloaded direct from the project website (


Scientist responsible for the project

KA6 5HW Ayr
United Kingdom (The) - GB

Phone: +44 1292 525299
Fax: +44 1292 525333


Project ID QLRT-2000-00559
Organisation The Scottish Agricultural College
Area 5.4
Start date 01 March 2001
Duration (months) 24
Total cost 321 043 €
Total EC contribution   321 043 €
Status Completed
Web address of the project

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