EU Science Hub

Assessment of semi-natural vegetation in EU agriculture and delivery of ecosystem services

Aug 08 2014

In a recently published article, the JRC presents its 1-km-resolution map of semi-natural vegetation in agricultural land in the EU-27, and assesses and classifies the relation between semi-natural vegetation and ecosystem services in EU regions.

The map, which was developed starting from fine-resolution (25 m) satellite imagery and geospatial data, was found to be 34.3% more accurate than previous maps. The study identifies areas where ‘greening’ measures of the Common Agricultural Policy 2014-2020 could enhance the green infrastructure, and sets the grounds to identify agricultural lands in need of ecological restoration.

Semi-natural vegetation in agriculture (hedgerows, buffer strips, ditches, etc.) plays a major role in the supply of vital services by ecosystems. The JRC study found that semi-natural vegetation is particularly beneficial for regulating ecosystem services, such as pollination and water quality and protecting against land erosion, whereas provisioning ecosystem services, such as agricultural biomass production and annual water flow, are strictly context-dependent.

Human activities in Europe put a lot of pressure on the environment. The study identifies those regions where agriculture scores low in values of semi-natural vegetation and services from ecosystems, as well as those regions where lessons can be learnt on a more optimal management strategy.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) aims to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, which is recognised as a main driver of biodiversity loss. Options for the current CAP focus on preserving semi-natural vegetation in agricultural land by preserving high-nature-value farming, and giving incentives to enhance landscape features such as hedgerows and flower strips (CAP Greening).

The authors propose the map as a powerful tool that can help target those areas most in need of intervention in order to enhance their semi-natural vegetation coverage, and thereby increase their degree of supply of multiple ecosystem services.


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