Landscape complexity and farmland biodiversity: Evaluating the CAPtarget on natural elements

A. Cormont*, H. Siepel, J. Clement, Th.C.P. Melman, M.F. Wallis de Vries

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Increasing pressures on natural areas and limited conservation budgets require, particularly in rural landscapes in the Western world, an immediate answer to the question how much natural area is required to provide a sustainable future for wild plant and animal species on farmland. The European Union proposed in its Common Agricultural Policy that 3–7% of EU farmland should be managed as ecological focus area (EFA) in order to halt biodiversity loss. For the first time, we empirically assessed the implications of this policy by evaluating the effects of the density of natural elements in agricultural landscapes on multi-taxon species richness, including vascular plants, breeding birds, butterflies, hoverflies, dragonflies, and grasshoppers for an entire European country. We found that species richness increased either as linear or as a logarithmic function of the proportion of natural elements in the landscape, but not with a sigmoid function as predicted by the ‘intermediate landscape complexity’ hypothesis. Even landscapes with 3–7% of natural elements harboured generally 37–75% of maximum species richness, indicating good potential of implementing the CAP target to preserve farmland biodiversity. However, differences between the 3 and 7% limits were considerable for butterflies, birds, and hoverflies. Also, the shape of the species richness response was shown to differ between landscape types for butterflies. Thus, it may be necessary to develop tailor-made guidelines at regional levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-26
JournalJournal for Nature Conservation
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Common Agricultural Policy
  • Ecological focus area
  • Farmland biodiversity
  • Landscape complexity
  • Species richness


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