Ecological impacts of early 21st century agricultural change in Europe - A review

C. Stoate, A. Báldi, P. Beja, N.D. Boatman, I. Herzon, A.M. van Doorn, G.R. de Snoo, L. Rakosy, C. Ramwell

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The impacts of agricultural land use are far-reaching and extend to areas outside production. This paper provides an overview of the ecological status of agricultural systems across the European Union in the light of recent policy changes. It builds on the previous review of 2001 devoted to the impacts of agricultural intensification in Western Europe. The focus countries are the UK, The Netherlands, Boreal and Baltic countries, Portugal, Hungary and Romania, representing a geographical spread across Europe, but additional reference is made to other countries. Despite many adjustments to agricultural policy, intensification of production in some regions and concurrent abandonment in others remain the major threat to the ecology of agro-ecosystems impairing the state of soil, water and air and reducing biological diversity in agricultural landscapes. The impacts also extend to surrounding terrestrial and aquatic systems through water and aerial contamination and development of agricultural infrastructures (e.g. dams and irrigation channels). Improvements are also documented regionally, such as successful support of farmland species, and improved condition of watercourses and landscapes. This was attributed to agricultural policy targeted at the environment, improved environmental legislation, and new market opportunities. Research into ecosystem services associated with agriculture may provide further pressure to develop policy that is targeted at their continuous provisioning, fostering motivation of land managers to continue to protect and enhance them
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-46
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • agri-environment schemes
  • land-use intensity
  • conventional arable farms
  • skylarks alauda-arvensis
  • modified herbicide-tolerant
  • plant-species richness
  • short-rotation coppice
  • set-aside land
  • farmland birds
  • landscape context


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