Pressures on grasslands
Assessment made on 01 Jan 2001
ClassificationBiodiversity (Primary theme)
Policy issue: What are the pressures on grasslands?
Grasslands face a wide variety of increasing pressures, depending on the local context and economy, with relevant financial and legal instruments often applying forces in different, conflicting directions.
The proposals for Sites of Community Interest, submitted from across Europe to protect environmentally sensitive areas under the EU's Habitats Directive, demonstrate the wide variety of pressures affecting Europe's grasslands (see Figures) and how these pressures vary from country to country.
There is a wide range of different legal and financial instruments affecting grasslands, often working in different directions. The EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a good example, as well as being one of the most important factors.
In 1992, the CAP was reformed to help reduce the agricultural sector's impact on the environment and the European landscape. A range of 'agri-environmental' measures were introduced, including support for low-intensity maintenance of grassland, environmentally friendly farming techniques, and the management of non-productive land.
While all these measures are helping preserve Europe's grasslands, they only command a small proportion of the CAP budget. On the other hand, the CAP also supports the conversion of agricultural land to forest - 60% of the land reforested in this way was once permanent grassland.
In the future, grasslands will not be immune to the changes sweeping through the agricultural sector, notably organic farming and the potential reduction in cattle farming due to outbreaks of 'mad cow' and Foot-and-Mouth disease. Fewer cattle and less intensive farming could result in greater support for semi-permanent grasslands - or it could lead to greater afforestation, more intensive crop farming, or even the abandonment of fields.
Another major influence on grasslands, completely unrelated to the CAP or any other financial instrument, is climate change. Global warming could lead to expansion of dry and arid grasslands - and even to desertification - in southern Europe, and to the spread of humid grasslands in the north.
Download detailed information and factsheets
Dry and mesic grassland habitats
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe's environment.
PDF generated on 25 Oct 2016, 12:58 AM