Exploring the motivation and challenges for land-users engaged in sustainable grazing in Europe

Julia Rouet-Leduc*, Fons van der Plas, Aletta Bonn, Wouter Helmer, Melissa R. Marselle, Erica von Essen, Guy Pe'er

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Grazing of both domestic and wild large herbivores can contribute to multiple ecosystem services. However, grazing systems strongly differ in the intensity of management and outcomes, and we define sustainable grazing as grazing which benefits multiple environmental ecosystem services. Previous studies have found that, in general, grazing systems with relatively low densities of animals, and with minimal and only targeted applications of deworming and other medicinal treatments, are most sustainable. However, for people engaged in such grazing management, a key question is what are their challenges and motivation. We conducted interviews with 74 land-users, who are engaged in sustainable grazing management, in eight case-study areas in Europe. Employing the capability, opportunity and motivation-behaviour model (COM-B), we identified key motivation factors driving sustainable grazing management and the challenges which these land-users face. We found that capability and opportunity linked to land abandonment and rural exodus impact upon land-users’ management, especially in parts of South and Eastern Europe. Furthermore, challenges linked to the environment were particularly important in remote areas. In addition, we found economic aspects to be important in driving land-users’ behaviour, especially fiscal measures of the Common Agricultural Policy. Moreover, our results indicate that engagement in sustainable grazing management is often intrinsically motivated by the interest in nature conservation, intergenerational continuity and cohesion in the rural community. Based on these results, using the Behaviour Change Wheel, we identify key interventions that could facilitate and encourage the capabilities and opportunities to conduct sustainable grazing management. These include incentivising extensification using subsidies, developing direct market possibilities and removing administrative hurdles for practises related to very extensive and semi-wild grazing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107146
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024


  • Behaviour Change Wheel
  • Grasslands
  • Grazing
  • Land management
  • Rewilding
  • Sustainable farming


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