Title: Grasslands of western and northern Europe – between intensification and abandonment
Authors : Dengler, Jürgen
Tischew, Sabine
Published in : Grasslands of the World: Diversity, Management and Conservation
Editors of the parent work: Squires, Victor R.
Dengler, Jürgen
Feng, Haiying
Hua, Limin
Publisher / Ed. Institution : CRC Press
Publisher / Ed. Institution: Boca Raton, US
Issue Date: 2018
Language : Englisch / English
Subjects : Grassland; Conservation
Subject (DDC) : 577: Ökologie
Abstract: About 17% of the territory of Western and Northern Europe (including the western part of Central Europe) is covered by grasslands. Of these 1/5 are natural grasslands, mainly in arctic-alpine and coastal areas, while 4/5 are secondary grasslands created via millennia of human land management, such as grazing, mowing and burning. As long as technological constraints limited the intensity of use, grasslands accumulated a lot of biodiversity, making them now the most species-rich habitat for many taxa. The direct economic value of agricultural products from grasslands (mainly dairy and meat) is 71 billion EUR per year (0.7% of the Gross Domestic Product of the region), while other ecosystem services like water and nitrogen retention, erosion control, biodiversity conservation and touristic use of traditional cultural landscapes together have a significantly higher value. After World War II, the situation of grasslands changed dramatically due to the excessive use of artificial fertilizer, much increased livestock numbers and the large-scale homogenization of site conditions towards mesic nutrient-rich situations. On the other hand, less productive and more remote sites were not profitable for agricultural use anymore and thus were abandoned (and subject to secondary succession). Both intensification and abandonment have strong negative impacts on grassland biodiversity. Many grassland habitats and their species are now highly threatened. Further important threat factors for grasslands in the region are airborne eutrophication and conversion to other land uses (croplands, forests, built-up areas), while we consider climate change, biotic invasions and direct human impacts to be less relevant than often thought. While grasslands are underrepresented among the nationally protected areas of the region, the Habitats Directive of the European Union put many of the more threatened grassland types into the conservation focus, so that they are now reasonably covered in the Natura 2000 network (spatially at least). Maintenance or restoration of semi-natural grasslands of High Nature Value (HNV) requires that they are managed in a way that mimics traditional agricultural use with hay-making and low-intensity grazing, but can also involve new approaches, such as controlled burning, “semi-open pasture landscapes” or “extensive green roofs”, which sometimes might be more feasible in the current socioeconomic situation. Semi-natural grasslands are a unique feature of the cultural landscapes of Europe. We conclude that conserving them and their biodiversity for the future requires a drastic further “greening” of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the EU and of similar instruments in the non-EU countries of the region, while at the same conservationists should be more open-minded towards conservation approaches that go beyond designation of protected areas and mimicking traditional grassland management.
Departement: Life Sciences und Facility Management
Organisational Unit: Institut für Umwelt und Natürliche Ressourcen (IUNR)
Publication type: Buchbeitrag / Book Part
ISBN: 9781498796262
URI: https://digitalcollection.zhaw.ch/handle/11475/1511
Appears in Collections:Publikationen Life Sciences und Facility Management

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