Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Permanent grasslands in Europe: Land use change and intensification decrease their multifunctionality

Schils, Rene L. M.; Bufe, Conny; Rhymer, Caroline M.; Francksen, Richard M.; Klaus, Valentin H.; Abdalla, Mohamed; Milazzo, Filippo; Lellei-Kovacs, Eszter; ten Berge, Hein; Bertora, Chiara; Chodkiewicz, Anna; Damatirca, Claudia; Feigenwinter, Iris; Fernandez-Rebollo, Pilar; Ghiasi, Shiva; Hejduk, Stanislav; Hiron, Matthew; Janicka, Maria; Pellaton, Raoul; Smith, Kate E.;
Show more authors

Abstract

Permanent grasslands cover 34% of the European Union's agricultural area and are vital for a wide variety of ecosystem services essential for our society. Over recent decades, the permanent grassland area has declined and land use change continues to threaten its extent. Simultaneously, the management intensity of permanent grasslands increased. We performed a systematic literature review on the multifunctionality of permanent grasslands in Europe, examining the effects of land use and management on 19 grassland ecosystem service indicators. Based on the evidence in 696 out of 70,456 screened papers, published since 1980, we found that both land use change and intensification of management decreased multifunctionality. In particular, preventing conversion of permanent grasslands to croplands secured the delivery of multiple ecosystem services. A lower management intensity was associated with benefits for biodiversity, climate regulation and water purification, but impacted the provision of high-quality animal feed. Increasing the number of species in the sward enhanced multifunctionality of permanent grassland without significant trade-offs such as losses in production. Our review covered many aspects of land use, management and ecosystem services, but we also identified areas with no or only few studies. The most prominent gaps were related to comparisons between permanent and temporary grasslands, and effects of management practices on the provision of cultural values, and on erosion and flood control. We suggest that, despite apparent changes in human dietary preferences, the protection of permanent grasslands in Europe must be prioritised. At the same time, considering the need to reduce ruminant livestock's contribution to climate change, the time seems ripe to increase support for low-intensity grassland management to optimise the provision of essential ecosystem services from Europe's permanent grasslands.

Keywords

Agro-ecology; Ecosystem services; Grassland; Land use change; Systematic literature review

Published in

Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
2022, volume: 330, article number: 107891
Publisher: ELSEVIER

Authors' information

Schils, Rene L. M.
Wageningen University and Research
Bufe, Conny
Wageningen University and Research
Rhymer, Caroline M.
Newcastle University - UK
Francksen, Richard M.
Newcastle University - UK
Klaus, Valentin H.
ETH Zurich
Abdalla, Mohamed
University of Aberdeen
Milazzo, Filippo
Universidad de Cordoba
Lellei-Kovacs, Eszter
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
ten Berge, Hein
Wageningen University and Research
Bertora, Chiara
University of Turin
Chodkiewicz, Anna
Warsaw University of Life Sciences
Damatirca, Claudia
University of Turin
Feigenwinter, Iris
ETH Zurich
Fernandez-Rebollo, Pilar
Universidad de Cordoba
Ghiasi, Shiva
ETH Zurich
Ghiasi, Shiva
Swiss Federal Research Station Agroscope
Hejduk, Stanislav
Mendel University in Brno
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Janicka, Maria
Warsaw University of Life Sciences
Pellaton, Raoul
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Show more authors

Associated SLU-program

SLUsystematic

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land

UKÄ Subject classification

Ecology

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2022.107891

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/117248