The intensification of agriculture and the conversion of semi-natural areas to cropland are considered as serious threats to biodiversity in Europe. They have led to a loss of Green and Blue Infrastructure (GBI) in agricultural landscapes. GBI includes landscape structures and habitats such as hedges, water meadows, field margins and woodland, essential for ensuring connectivity between habitats and allowing the movement of species. GBI also provides a range of ecosystem services which are necessary for meeting environmental policy objectives.
The “Greening” of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) (the introduction of compulsory agri-environment requirements in the 2014-20 CAP) should help support GBI by encouraging the implementation of environmental measures across the wider countryside. However, first reviews of CAP-Greening suggest that it is not fully fulfilling its potential.
The BIOGEA project, which is supported by national funders through the BiodivERsA funding programme, an EU-programme funded by Horizon 2020 ERA-NET COFUND scheme, researches the impact of land use change on Green Blue Infrastructure (GBI) in the agricultural landscape. Through policy analysis on the EU and national level and biological monitoring and modelling in six case study areas in 3 Member States (Germany, Spain and Bulgaria), the impacts of policy on GBI and GBI on biodiversity are examined.
- Understand the impacts of CAP-Greening on the quantity and quality of GBI in the agricultural landscape;
- Understand the short-, medium- and long-term effects of GBIs on biodiversity and ecosystem services at different spatial scales and under different land uses;
- Examine the potential for indicators to measure GBI and the linked biodiversity and ecosystem services;
- Explore ways in which this knowledge can be used to design, develop and manage more resilient GBIs.
An adapted version of the ES cascade model (Haines-Young und Potschin 2010) has been adopted as the conceptual framework under which the BIOGEA hypotheses will be tested.
The cascade model shows how biodiversity and ecosystems provide benefits to humans through the flow of ecosystem services which are sourced from the individual “GBI features” (habitats and species), progress through their ecosystem functions (how they impact on the surrounding ecosystem or wider environment) to the “GBI aims” assigned to these functions by policy (the provision of ES and the related benefits to humans). In turn, the way people value GBI, will influence their approach to addressing the pressures on GBI.