Agricultural abandonment reflects a post war trend in western Europe of rural depopulation to which isolated and poorer areas are most vulnerable. The commercialisation of agriculture, through technological developments, and the influence of Common Agricultural Policy have increased productivity and focused agricultural activity on more fertile and accessible land thus transforming traditional approaches to farming. In many areas this has lead to a decline in traditional labour intensive practices and marginal agricultural land is being abandoned. The problems that these trends create are particularly marked in mountain areas. The social and economic impacts of these changes have been well documented. However, the implications for environmental policy are less well recognised. This paper reviews the literature on abandonment and gives a comparative analysis of European mountain case studies to assess the environmental impacts of land abandonment and decline in traditional farming practices. It finds abandonment is widespread and that, while the influence of environmental changes is unpredictable due to environmental, agricultural and socio-economic contextual factors, abandonment generally has an undesirable effect on the environmental parameters examined. The application of agri-environment policy measures in relation to abandonment is discussed and suggestions for future policy are proposed.
Journal of Environmental Management – Elsevier
Published: May 1, 2000
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