Some specific analysis on conservation status
Figure 1 - Conservation status of habitats dependent (left) or not dependent (right) on agriculture (see text for details)
It is clear that the habitat types linked to agriculture, in general, have a worse conservation status with only 7% favourable compared to 21% for non-agricultural habitats. There is variation between regions with no Member State reporting a habitat dependent on agriculture as favourable in the Atlantic region. Excluding Macaronesia, which has very few habitats dependent on agriculture, the highest percentage of favourable is in the Continental with 9% followed by the Alpine and Boreal regions which both have 7% (see Figure 2). It is difficult to compare the Mediterranean with other regions as the proportion of unknown is very high although the data would suggest these habitats are more favourable in this region than elsewhere. However, as discussed in the document ‘Data completeness, quality and coherence’ it is not clear that the same criteria have been applied by countries such as Italy and Greece as elsewhere in Europe when assessing conservation status.
Figure 2 – Conservation status of agricultural habitats in 6 biogeographical regions
The bad conservation status of agricultural habitats in the Atlantic region could be linked to the pressures in this region which includes a high proportion of farmland including some of the most intensively farmed land in the European Union as shown on figure 3. Although Figure 3 only shows the EU15, work on High Nature Value Farming by ETC/LUSI suggests that agriculture in the Pannonian region is relatively intensive and this is confirmed by Figure 4.
Figure 3 - Regional importance of low-input, medium-input and high-input farming and the trend 1990-2000 for the EU15. The low input regions are the 20 regions with the lowest average expenditure on inputs; high-input regions are the 20 regions with the highest average expenditure on inputs, and medium-input regions constitute the remainder. (EEA, 1998)3
Figure 4 - Dominant landscape types of Europe, based on Corine land cover 20004
The proportion of land used as farmland in the Pannonian region is the highest in the EU at 75%, followed by the Atlantic region with 67%5 which is the second highest. These contrast with only 22% in the Alpine region and 19% in the Boreal.
A paper prepared by the ETC/BD for the EEA in 2006 identified a short list of species which were strongly associated with extensive agriculture to help with the identification of areas of High Nature Value Farming6. These species, together with their assessment for each region are shown on Table 1. Most assessments are ‘unfavourable’ (19 of 21 assessments excluding unknowns) and there are only two assessments as ‘favourable, for the cricket Saga pedo in the Atlantic region and the plant Gladiolus palustris in the Mediterranean. In the Atlantic region Saga pedo is only present in a small part of France, adjacent to the Mediteranean region where it is more widespread, while Gladiolus palustris in the Mediterranean region only occurs in Italy who have assessed this species as ‘favourable’ in all regions in which occurs but always with ‘habitat for the species’ as unknown.
Table 1 - Conservation status of species identified as strongly dependent on agriculture (no species were listed for the Boreal region)
Other studies have shown that populations of species associated with farming tend to be declining faster than other groups, for example Heer, Kapos & Brink reported a 25% decline in farmland species since 1970, with other species groups showing declines of 5% or less5 . The same study reported greater declines in the EU15 compared to the EU10 which is consistent with declines in both species populations and the poor conservation status of habitats associated with agriculture being linked to the high proportion of land in Western Europe, in particular the Atlantic region, used for intensive agriculture.
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