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Biodiversity conservation and community development in Transylvania
Conservarea biodiversităţii şi dezvoltare comunitară în Transilvania

High Nature Value Grasslands Conference: outputs

Securing the ecosystem services of European farming post 2013
International Conference, 7-9 September, Sibiu, Romania

HNV farming plays a key role in providing a wide range of ecosystem services vital to the long term future of Europe. The conference proposed EU strategies for maintaining HNV farming and grasslands, so securing vital ecosystem services for the benefit of all Europe’s citizens.

Outputs of the conference include
  • a joint policy document supported by leading NGOs in this sector, The European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism, World Wide Fund for Nature, BirdLife International, Butterfly Conservation Europe
  • a summary of conference conclusions which has been adopted by a wide cross-section of conservation and rural development NGOs in Europe
  • a conference brochure that examines Transylvania as a case study , with a description of land management and issues facing small-scale farmers and rural communities in the area.
These documents, and the NGO alliance that the conference has helped to create, will all contribute to advocacy of HNV-targeted CAP reforms which will continue over the next few months. For electronic copies: see links to right. For hard copies by post: contact us by email.

The big questions at the conference

The problem – Europe faces a multitude of social and environmental problems, and EU policies so far have failed to solve them:

  • The EU has failed to meet its target to stop biodiversity loss by 2010. Europe’s high-biodiversity landscapes are being destroyed by perverse incentives from the CAP
  • Rural employment continues to fall and rural economies to fail in spite of massive income support payments
  • Fires and floods are on the increase
  • Europe is failing to meet it carbon reduction targets

The solution – payment for Ecosystem Services by supporting Europe’s High Nature Value farming

The current CAP leaves small-scale traditional farms at a disadvantage. As they and the landscapes they support disappear through the EU’s drive for competitiveness, pollution, floods and fires increase, and biodiversity, rural communities and valued landscapes are lost.

Traditional high-biodiversity farmed landscapes (High Nature Value landscapes) deliver a whole range of ecosystem services that are worth billions of Euros if valued properly: biodiversity conservation, recreational landscapes, clean water, resistance to fire and flood, mitigation of climate change, high quality food produced at low carbon cost, viable rural communities. 

These Public Goods are not rewarded by normal markets, but can and should be supported by public funds. These landscapes, and the farms associated with them, can solve multiple social and environmental problems in an extremely cost-effective manner.  

To achieve this win-win of sustainable landscapes delivering wide environmental and social benefits, a wholesale reform of the CAP is needed: redistribution of funding from “conventional” systems dependent on heavy use of fossil fuels and fertilisers to those which support the ecosystem services which are very valuable to society, but which are poorly rewarded by the market.  Without such changes, we risk moving further from the European model of “multifunctional” agriculture delivering multiple benefits, towards the extremes of intensive agriculture in some areas and abandoned rural spaces in others.


Themes of the conference can be summarized as:

HNV grasslands – what they provide

  • HNV grasslands and biodiversity. Semi-natural pastures and meadows (“HNV grasslands”) are central to the ecosystem services of European farming, and at the same time represent a major part of European biodiversity. The EU’s 2010 Biodiversity Target has not been met. Renewed efforts are needed across the EU. Maintenance of HNV grasslands should be a priority target from 2010.
  • HNV grasslands and ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are becoming a dominant theme in policy debates. The place of HNV grasslands within ecosystem services needs to be clarified and flagged up – landscape, water-catchment functions, quality food production on land with limited economic options, cultural values. It is the whole farming and social system that delivers the ecosystem services, and that therefore needs to be maintained.
  • HNV grasslands and climate change. Climate change has become a leading environmental concern. The positive services of HNV grasslands in the mitigation of climate change need to be explained and quantified, eg. carbon storage, fire resistance in dry areas, large-scale habitats allowing species to adapt to climate change. Conversely, some policy responses to climate change have dubious or negative net benefits: for example change of land use for biocropping or intensive biomass.

HNV grasslands – what they need

  • The socio-economy of HNV farming systems. Low-intensity HNV livestock farming links food quality, culture and nature. The conference described the socio-economic situation of HNV farming systems and farming communities, with data and case studies from around EU.
  • The need for local initiatives. Key policy lessons from ADEPT project and other local projects. The conference highlighted a small number of common challenges and possible responses at local level that can  make policies more effective.
  • Common Agricultural Policy reform. What can the CAP do to address HNV challenges across EU? CAP reform 2010-13 is a major opportunity; may be the last chance to secure a sustainable future for HNV grasslands through an EU strategy with a sufficiently resourced package of measures for supporting the farming systems that maintain HNV grasslands. There is a need for better targeted HNV support payments, and for greater encouragement for local projects to deliver them effectively.

For copies of conference presentations, follow this link


Farming in the area



Food hygiene

HNV Grasslands conference

Conference brochureConference brochure
(1.9mb pdf).
The conference brochure contains an introduction to the farming systems of the HNV landscapes of Transylvania, with case studies.

Policy documentPolicy Document 
(1mb pdf).
The policy document describes the need for targeted support of HNV farming systems, and proposals for achieving them under the CAP post 2013.

Conference conclusionsConference conclusions (426k pdf)
The High Nature Value Grasslands conference has issued a summary of conference conclusions, which are supported by key NGOs working on this policy area. 

HNV Grassland Conference

The field trip ended in the village of Viscri, where conference participants visited sheepfolds and farm courtyards, so that they could discuss practical problems with the farmers themselves. This photograph of the participants is taken in front of Viscri’s famous Saxon fortified church.

HNV Grasslands Conference delegates on the Tumps

The conference field trip introduced the participants to biodiversity importance and conservation management of the unique hillocks in the Tarnava Mare project area: biodiversity hotspots with mixed Steppic, Mediterranean, woodland and montane flora.

Public consultation on the future of the CAP

CAP reform 2010-13 is a major opportunity for re-targeting CAP resources, so that they help meet European citizens’ expectations, and secure the future of these HNV grasslands and the ecosystem services they deliver. Under EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos, an unprecedented public consultation was carried out on the future of the CAP post 2013, which finished in June 2010. See official summary of results

Prominent among the themes that emerged, which have considerable support from the wide range of contributors, were that the the reformed CAP should:
  • Recognise that the market cannot pay for the provision of public goods and benefits. Public action has to offset market failure
  • Give proper payment to farmers for the delivery of public goods and services
  • Protect the environment and biodiversity, conserve the countryside, sustain the rural economy, preserve and create rural jobs, mitigate climate change 
  • Rethink the structure of the two support pillars and clarify the relationship between them. Make adequate resources available for successful rural development
  • Be fairer to small farmers, to less-favoured regions, and to new member states.
Sponsorul Oficial - Fundația Orange România