German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Sustainable Farming

Farming has made the landscape more varied, fostered biodiversity and shaped the cultivated landscape for many centuries. Since the 1950s, however, farming has become more intensive and many marginal sites have been abandoned. This caused extensively farmed ecosystems to disappear together with animal and plant species that had adapted to them. Intensive agricultural production has thus contributed to biodiversity decline in both cultivated and wild species and is one of the main causes of biodiversity loss. To counter this trend, a target has been adopted under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with areas under agriculture to be managed sustainably by 2020 in order to ensure conservation of biodiversity. The National Strategy on Biological Diversity (NBS) adopted by the German Federal Cabinet in 2007 likewise lays down specific and measurable targets in relation to agriculture and cultural landscapes. These stipulate, for example, that biodiversity in agricultural ecosystems must increase significantly by 2020, and that by 2015 the proportion of land accounted for by agricultural habitats of conservation value must increase by at least 10 percent compared with 2005. By 2010, the proportion of near-natural landscape elements was targeted to increase by at least 5% and the proportion of agricultural land under organic farming to 20%.

These targets cannot be attained by designating new protected areas alone. Farmed land has to be included as well. Farming is essential to the attainment of many nature conservation aims. Sustainable farming is therefore needed as part of efforts to conserve biodiversity, and it has to be implemented together with farmers.

Among the most important instruments of nature conservation in agriculture are agri-environmental measures and contract nature conservation, where the aim is to achieve targeted improvements in the conservation status of species and agricultural habitats of conservation value in voluntary collaboration with farmers. Farmers are compensated for the opportunity cost of, for example, the reduced use of fertiliser and crop protection products or mowing later in the season. If biodiversity decline is really to be halted, however, more funding is needed for contract nature conservation and agri-environmental programmes and within this most of all for measures that promote biodiversity.

Last Change: 24/04/2015