High Nature Value Farming & Natura 2000
Although representing two very different approaches and concepts, the European ecological network Natura 2000 and areas with so-called High Nature Value (HNV) Farming have a significant overlap in agricultural landscapes, which has not received enough attention to date. Of course, both areas play an important part in the preservation of Europes biodiversity.
Natura 2000 derives its existence from the EU Birds Directive (79/409/EEC, today 2009/147/EEC) and Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). In a lengthy process, all Member States must designate distinctive areas – so-called SCI (Sites of Community Interest) and SPA (Special Protection Areas), which together make up the Natura 2000 network - for the protection of species and habitat types listed in the relevant annexes. Thus far (May 2010), the network covers of 25.1 % of the EU, though the percentage varies considerably between Member States.
Neither Directive, although regulating the development of projects and plans in SPA and SCI, sets out prescriptions for their continued management. Therefore, the label “Natura 2000” cannot halt the continued loss of biodiversity as such, at least not if it depends on active human intervention.
The term High Nature Value (HNV) farmland or HNV farming was first coined in the early 1990s in the report on the “Nature of Farming“ (Beaufoy et al. 1994). It describes the importance of low-intensity farming, mostly in marginal agricultural areas, for the continuing long-term existence of structural diversity and the accompanying flora and fauna (“Biodiversity”). A more elaborate explanation can be found at HNV Farming facts. Ever since its incorporation into the new European rural development regulation, HNV Farmland has received more public awareness. Today, it is recognised as a key indicator for monitoring the effectiveness of Agri-Environment Schemes (AES).
The connection between Natura 2000 and HNV Farmland is fairly obvious: many species and habitats listed on the annexes depend on the traditional land-use patterns and landscape structure which are characteristic of HNV Farmland. Once traditional agricultural practices are no longer in place, conservation management of protected areas like Natura 2000-sites often face very complex challenges.
Furthermore, Natura 2000-sites are often small and highly isolated. Currently, connectivity of habitats and movement of species between different subpopulations is highly impeded in agricultural areas. Therefore in these regions the ecological network Natura 2000 in a long-term perspective will depend on the existence of a 'friendly' wider agricultural landscape outside the boundaries of designated areas in order to fulfill its goals. This higher ‘permeability’ of the landscape can be guaranteed by HNV farming practises.
The HNV farming concept emphasises that biodiversity conservation goals in Europe cannot be met only by protecting particular habitats or species, or designating certain areas for their management, such as Natura 2000 sites. This view has been expressed clearly by the European Commission in official communications on halting biodiversity decline1. It is of highest importance to maintain the low-intensity landuses that favour the dynamics of natural processes and create opportunities for biodiversity to flourish across large, contiguous areas of land. Both approaches are entirely complementary.
Examples of NATURA 2000-sites which originated in HNV farming and currently are maintained by low-intensity landuse can be found in our HNV Panoramas.
1“Natura 2000 and the conservation of threatened species will not be viable in the long-term without a wider terrestrial, freshwater and marine environment favourable to biodiversity. Key actions include: optimising the use of available measures under the reformed CAP, notably to prevent intensification or abandonment of high-nature-value farmland, woodland and forest and supporting their restoration;” COM(2006) 216 final COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION HALTING THE LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY BY 2010 — AND BEYOND Sustaining ecosystem services for human well-being.