Abandoned farmland: Past failures or future opportunities for Europe's Green Deal? A Baltic case-study

Kristine Valujeva*, Mariana Debernardini, Elizabeth K. Freed, Aleksejs Nipers, Rogier P.O. Schulte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Competing societal demands on land require careful land management. In the era of the European Green Deal, farmers are required to meet some of these competing demands, specifically around production, greenhouse gas emission reductions, and biodiversity conservation. At the same time, 15.1% of total EU land is abandoned or underutilised, which means that it contributes neither to food, nor to ecosystem services, to its full potential. Reintegrating abandoned agricultural land back into production is therefore one of the potential pathways to deliver on the aspirations of the Common Agriculture Policy post-2020. In this paper we assess the potential of managing and reintegrating abandoned agricultural land in Europe to simultaneously increase primary productivity, carbon regulation and habitat for biodiversity, using Latvia as a national case-study that is representative of this challenge in a Baltic context. Our results show that for some regions, reintegration of abandoned agricultural land can lead to “triple win” synergies. These opportunities can be further exploited by applying best management practices to these reintegrated lands. In other regions, where the area of abandoned agricultural land is limited because of favourable biophysical conditions for intensive agricultural production, such “triple-win” synergies are scarce. In such areas, abandoned land plays a role in maintaining ecosystem services at local and regional scales, and even small increases in primary productivity come at the expense of biodiversity. This calls for careful management that involves diverse actor groups, including land managers, in the decision-making process, and in priority setting in each of the regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-184
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Volume128
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

Keywords

  • Biodiversity
  • Carbon regulation
  • Functional Land Management
  • Management practices
  • Primary productivity

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