The key conclusions of sWP 2.5 are that it is critical that policy and management practices increasingly consider the complex spatial and temporal interactions between semi-natural habitats, cropped areas and conservation interventions. This will improve the management and conservation of protected areas and contribute to the maintenance or restoration of agricultural biodiversity as well as crop-related ecosystem services. This is essential due to the close links and interactions between fragmented conservation areas in central Europe and the mixed agricultural matrix in which they are embedded. In particular, the often ignored, but potentially negative indirect impacts of functional spill-over from agricultural to semi-natural or natural protected areas has to be studied in more detail and accordingly addressed in conservation schemes. Novel and targeted conservation area management schemes could create buffer zones surrounding protected areas to mitigate the impact of intensive agriculture, to enhance the population size of pollinators and pest control agents, and to maintain the diversity of protected and endangered plant and animal species. Possible management approaches supported by spatially targeted incentives could include a higher proportion of extensive grasslands, organic farming, temporal set-aside of arable fields, larger field margins and new linear habitat elements in these buffer zones. For agricultural systems, novel management concepts need to include the provision of ecosystem services by appropriate agri-environmental schemes and by tools that allow farmers to assess the yield consequences of temporal crop rotation patterns. Dual approaches may be needed: those which enhance ecosystem services by managing the commoner species delivering the service and those which focus on protecting rare species. Careful spatial targeting of appropriate interventions will be necessary to achieve win-win situations for nature conservation areas and crop production systems.

Figure: Semi-natural habitat (calcareous grassland) in a mixed agricultural landscape in Germany (Lower Franconia) (photo: Jochen Krauss)

Key policies:

EU Green Infrastructure Strategy
Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC
Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020