Agriculture & Land Management

Our Work

High Nature Value (HNV) is a comparatively new term used to describe some of the oldest and most biodiversity rich farming and forestry systems in Europe, many of which are now under threat. On this HNV land, for hundreds or even thousands of years, semi-natural habitats and wild species have been interdependent with low-intensity management by local communities. IEEP has been a leading player in research and policy analysis focused on HNV farming since the term was first coined in an influential IEEP-led report in 1993.

Until the mid twentieth century, HNV farmland and forests were still widespread across much of the EU. Since then, a combination of intensification and industrialisation in some areas and simplification of management systems or land abandonment in others, has led to the large-scale loss of HNV land in the lowlands of Northern and North-Western Europe.

Extensive areas of HNV land have survived in parts of Central and Eastern Member States and in the Mediterranean basin, but these are at risk from powerful economic pressures that lead rapidly to abandonment or intensification, with consequent loss of both biodiversity and local management skills and knowledge.

Securing appropriate low-intensity management of the remaining HNV farmland and forests, and restoring recently abandoned HNV land, is essential for the EU to achieve its 2020 Biodiversity Strategy targets and secure the supply of key environmental public goods such as good soil functionality, carbon storage and the management of cultural landscapes.

IEEP was closely involved in defining the HNV impact indicator for monitoring and evaluating EU co-financed expenditure under 2007-13 Rural Development Programmes, and in the detailed guidance provided for Member States. Studies of land abandonment have focused on the problems facing HNV farming, especially low-intensity livestock systems that maintain the biodiversity of semi-natural habitats. IEEP has continued to promote discussion about the best use of CAP policy tools and the EU Forest Strategy to secure the long-term future of HNV farmland and forest management, and has gathered detailed evidence to inform and support future HNV land management policy at EU, national and regional level.

Latest in High Nature Value farming and Forest management

  • EU research project PEGASUS - new thinking on sustainable land management

    EU research project PEGASUS kicked off in London on 29-30 April. The three-year project, led by IEEP, is focused on transforming land management approaches in the EU to improve the delivery of public goods and ecosystem services from rural areas.

  • Sustainable intensification of European agriculture

    The concept of sustainable intensification has come into prominence in the context of global food security. This report defines what we mean by sustainable intensification, explains its global logic, discusses what it means for EU agriculture and exemplifies this in three case studies for soil performance, nutrient recycling and biodiversity.

  • High Nature Value farming throughout EU-27 and its financial support under the CAP

    This study reviews Member States’ estimates of the extent of HNV farmland and use of RDP measures and the CMEF indicators, then identifies future priorities for CAP support for HNV farming and discusses the support opportunities under the reformed CAP. It offers detailed new evidence about the combined effect of Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 CAP payments on the economic and environmental viability of a typical HNV farming system in three Member States.

  • New report: High Nature Value Farming in the EU

    Member States need to make the most of the opportunities under the new Common Agricultural Policy if the declines in HNV farming, critical for meeting our 2020 biodiversity targets, are to be halted.

  • Delivering environmental benefits through entry-level agri-environment schemes in the EU

    A new study of the 2007-13 agri-environment schemes across the whole of EU-27 provides the first typology of ‘entry-level’ agri-environment management and environmental objectives, plus a detailed insight into the design of entry-level agri-environment schemes and calculation of payment rates in seven Member States.

  • Farmland Abandonment in the EU: an Assessment of Trends and Prospects

    Assessment of recent agricultural abandonment in the EU and its causes, and likely future abandonment according to expected trends in drivers