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Report2012Open access

Biodiversity in agricultural landscapes : causes, constraints and opportunities

Josefsson, Jonas


In the past century, European agriculture has undergone profound changes. Through technical advances and structural changes, productivity is snowballing while farmland ecosystems are increasingly affected. These changes are taking place not only at the field scale through increased inputs and outputs, but also at the landscape scale through landscape simplification, with ecological effects being attributable to changes at both scales. While the decline of many farmland organisms in response to agricultural intensification is the most apparent effect, many of the biological functions provided by the systems biodiversity (so called ecosystem services such as pollination, nutrient cycling etc.) are also threatened, which could have great economical implications. To counter negative effects of agricultural intensification, EU Member States are using agri-environmental schemes (AESs) to incite farmers to use environmentally friendly practices. However, the effects of these schemes have been questioned both on the uncertain effects on biodiversity and on farmers’ reluctance to participate. Many studies have tried to relate AES participation to characteristics of schemes, or demographics of farms and farmers including attitudes. Farmers seem to prefer schemes with flexible contract terms that only infer small changes in farm management. However, linking AES participation to farm characteristics is problematic, and studies often reach opposing results. Regarding ecological effects, lack of clearly stated objectives and the low scientific quality of the CMEF evaluations cloud the assessment of measures. Further, the effects of AESs have been found to vary with landscape composition (cleared/complex) and between taxa. With a deeper understanding of how AES effects interact with the landscape and how farmers relate to conservation initiatives, there are opportunities to improve scheme design. Collection of baseline data, evidence?based measures and result-??based payments are examples of ways to advance AESs. To increase farmer engagement in AESs, participatory approaches play an important part in bridging the attitudinal gap between conservationists, legislation and farmers


agricultural landscape; farmland; biodiversity; birds; land use; intensification; environmental policies; sweden; farmland biodiversity; agricultural intensification; farmland birds

Published in

Introductory research essay (Department of Ecology, SLU)
2012, number: 17, pages: 4-25
Publisher: Institutionen för ekologi, Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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