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Wealth from farming - High Nature Value Farmland

The Danube-Carpathian region has many of Europe's richest richest cultural landscapes. But changing rural economies and land use are putting pressure on many of these areas.

Although a European policy priority, many High Nature Value farming systems and their associated biodiversity and cultural value are under increasing threat, either from intensification of farming practices or from the abandonment of farming altogether.

The unique rural landscapes in the Danube-Carpathian region, as in Europe more generally, are strongly influenced by human activities, and especially by agriculture. As a result of its longstanding management of the land, farming in the region has co-evolved with its ecology, landscapes and other environmental resources.

Today, many of the species and their characteristic habitats are dependent upon continued management to sustain their diversity. Many of the landscapes in the Danube-Carpathian region are primarily cultural, heavily influenced by centuries of farm and woodland management.

This largely positive relationship between management and environmental quality has depended upon low-input farming practices, in term of use of capital and nutrients, while labour inputs were relatively high.

However, the rural economy in the region has changed and is changing, with agricultural land use practices associated with semi-natural habitats often falling out of use. With changes in the rural economy and society, the biodiversity of farmland has rapidly declined across Europe in the last few decades.

At present, the same is likely to occur in the Danube-Carpathian countries unless forceful measures are taken to hold onto this natural and social capital.

WWF's efforts to preserve the rich cultural landscapes in the Danube-Carpathian region focus on capacity building and awareness raising, mapping and identification, policy work, especially connected with use of EU funds as well as practical implementation through working with farmers and other local stakeholders to find ways to develop local economies that preserve high value farmlands while providing a fair income.

Contact: Koen de Rijck, WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme