Greening measure to protect nature on farms will be environmentally ineffective, new study shows

05 January.2017

A new study has revealed that ‘Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs)’ - a flagship Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) nature protection measure - will deliver negligible benefits for Europe’s wildlife. This is particularly worrying given the low level of nature on arable landscapes. 

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) & BirdLife Europe & Central Asia (ECA) are calling for a significant overhaul of the CAP to make it beneficial for the environment.

The stated aim of EFAs - one of three CAP ‘greening’ measures introduced at the last CAP reform in 2013 - is to ensure that at least 5% of total EU arable land is dedicated to nature protection. However, research commissioned by the EEB and BirdLife ECA shows that while farmers more than met this target on paper, in practice crops which have negligible effects on biodiversity are being grown on 75% of land declared as an EFA.

The analysis, carried out by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), looks into the ecological impact of the options available to farmers in 13 EU countries and regions to comply with the EFA requirement. Member States are allowing farmers to count commercial crops with no proven biodiversity benefits towards their commitment to dedicate land to nature.

Farming relies on natural resources and the environment, yet as a sector it has one of the biggest impacts on our environment and poses a grave threat to biodiversity in the EU. An Institut für Agrarökologie und Biodiversität (IFAB) study from September 2015 found that 95% of all investigated arable landscapes had low levels of biodiversity even in regions where it was expected to be high.

The results of the 11-year study, organized by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds in the framework of the "Census of birds around us: Monitoring of common bird species (MOVP)" showed alarming results on the status of the birds in the country. Of all the birds groups most vulnerable are the birds in the agricultural lands. Among the main threats to the status of the birds in these habitats are removing bushes, plowing grasslands areas and pesticide use.

One of the main threats to the globally threatened Imperial eagle is degradation and ultimate loss of natural habitats. The LIFE project "Land for Life" performs activities for restoration and improvement of pastures and meadows that are hunting territory of the species in key Natura 2000 sites in Bulgaria. Protection of biodiversity and traditional methods of grazing domestic animals are compatible and are of benefit both farmers and the environment.

Photo: Nikolay Petkov,

Latest news

All news