The removal of landscape features on agricultural land in Europe is one of the main agricultural pressures for biodiversity and ecosystem services. The EU Green Deal aims to bring back high-diversity landscape features on at least 10% of agricultural land by 2030, including woody features like tree lines, tree groups and hedges among other small habitats. Copernicus Earth observation data shows, woody landscape features covered 5% of the EU’s agricultural land in 2018.

Figure 1. Share of woody landscape features on agricultural area in the EU member states and non-EU EEA member and cooperating countries (%)

The agricultural landscape features are small fragments of habitats on agricultural landscapes, including woody features, field margins, ponds, ditches, stone walls and other features. They support biodiversity and provide ecosystem services such as soil protection and pollination .

Copernicus Land Monitoring Service earth observation data estimated that woody landscape features covered 5% of the EU’s agricultural land in 2018, ranging from 2.6% in Cyprus to 9.3% in Ireland. Four EU Member States have more than 7% of their agricultural areas covered by woody landscape features (Ireland, Slovenia, Portugal and Croatia). Eleven Member States have between 5% and 7%, followed by a range of 3% to 5% in another eight Member States. The estimation is lower than 3% in Cyprus, Romania, Luxembourg and Spain.

The estimated share of woody landscape features for agricultural areas in EEA member countries outside the EU and for cooperating countries range from 0.2% in Iceland to 7.7% in Liechtenstein.

Traditionally, landscape features existed due to their agricultural functions, such as acting as windbreaks or as remnants of previously larger natural or semi-natural habitats on land unfavourable for agricultural production.

With the modernisation of agriculture in Europe, the disappearance of landscape features has been one of the most important pressures on biodiversity, as reported by Member States under the nature directives. However, comprehensive EU-level trend information is not available, therefore establishing the monitoring of landscape features is crucial to track changes. This indicator provides the first comprehensive estimation for the share of woody landscape features in Europe in 2018.

When assessing the prospects based on current agricultural policy developments in the EU, without increased ambition and strengthened implementation, the share of woody landscape features is not expected to increase considerably by 2030. More incentives and knowledge transfer are needed to overcome barriers like high costs, technical knowledge needs and insufficient awareness about environmental and economic benefits.

The new EU Nature restoration law may aid the increasing trend in the share of woody landscape features as it intends to increase the agricultural land covered with high-diversity landscape features.

Figure 2. Share of woody landscape features on agricultural areas in NUTS3 regions

Share of woody landscape features on agricultural areas in NUTS3 regions

The estimated proportion of woody landscape features on agricultural land highly varies within countries. Reasons can include agricultural management, geographical, climatic and cultural factors.

Some NUTS3 regions — mainly in Albania, Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Ireland, Montenegro, Portugal, Sweden, and Türkiye — have reached levels close to or exceeding 10%. Conversely, many regions have values below 5%. The lowest proportions can be observed in regions in France, Hungary, Iceland, Romania, Spain and Türkiye. The highest proportions (>20%) appear in southern France, Greece, central Italy, northern Spain and northern Türkiye.

Clear distinctions between regions with high and low woody landscape feature shares within a country are evident in various cases such as the Île-de-France region compared to the rest of France, between southern and northern Portugal and the region of Türkiye along the Black Sea in comparison to the rest of Türkiye.

Some urban NUTS3 regions with relatively high values compared to the surrounding regions can be observed, which results from a lower extent of agricultural areas with a relatively higher share of woody features in the urban areas.