LIFE and Europe´s grasslands: Restoring a forgotten habitat (2008)

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Grassland ecosystems hold an important part of Europe’s biodiversity. They offer ideal conditions for a vast diversity of habitats and species, and are especially important for birds and invertebrates, providing vital breeding grounds. Grasslands are also the source of a wide range of public goods and services, ranging from meat and dairy products to recreational and tourism opportunities. In addition, they act as carbon ‘sinks’ and are therefore a vital asset in the effort to reduce levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Except for very limited areas of special natural grassland types, most European grasslands are maintained through grazing or cutting. However, changes in agricultural practices and land use pressures mean that grasslands are disappearing at an alarming rate and are nowadays among Europe’s most threatened ecosystems.  As a contracting party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the European Community has taken decisive steps to fulfil its commitments and to meet the target defined by the Heads of State and Government, to halt biodiversity loss by 2010. In May 2006, the European Commission adopted a Communication on Biodiversity and an Action Plan that defines priority actions to meet this target. Many of the objectives, targets and actions are directly relevant to the conservation and wise use of grasslands. Since its beginning, the Commission’s environment and nature funding programme, LIFE, has been contributing to projects with actions targeting grassland ecosystems within the Natura 2000 network. This brochure presents a selection of grassland projects that have received LIFE co-funding since 1992. The majority of projects focus on the restoration and management of grasslands, while a few also target key grasslands species. Of particular importance is the link between agriculture and grasslands habitats, which is being developed through LIFE and will be strengthened by the Rural Development Programme. EU Rural Development Policy aims to reconcile agriculture with the objectives of EU nature conservation policy. This goal is achieved by financing agri-environmental measures that go beyond the usual good farming practices and that have a direct impact on the conservation of European grasslands, particularly through the maintenance of extensive systems and support for agriculture in Natura 2000 sites. Looking to the future, it is hoped that Member States will take advantage of new opportunities for the funding of grassland projects under the Commission’s LIFE+ programme.
Language: English
Imprint: LIFE (“The Financial Instrument for the Environment”), launched by the European Commission and coordinated by the Environment Directorate-General (LIFE Unit - E.4). © European Communities, 2008 2008
Series: Report,