The intensification of agriculture associated with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has entailed the local, national and regional extinction of numerous species of the European flora and fauna as well as profound changes in the functioning of European agroecosystems over the last 40 years. This intensification has entailed the simplification and specialisation of agroecosystems, the abandonment of less fertile areas leading to an overall loss of landscape diversity, and an increase in the use of chemicals per unit area. These three processes have induced a degradation of habitat quality and decreases in the diversity and abundance of food resources used by herbivorous and predatory species, processes that underlie the observed species loss in European farmlands. Recent reforms of the CAP and the entry of the new EU member countries may have multiple and profound consequences for the biodiversity and the ecosystem services associated with Europe’s most extensive habitat.
A consortium of 12 research teams will examine two main features related to the ecosystem services provided by biodiversity in European agroecosystems: (1) the persistence of species having high conservation value, and (2) the prevalence of sustained biological control of important agricultural pests. These teams encompass a double gradient of geography/bioclimate and agricultural intensification that will allow large-scale assessments of the ecological impacts of agricultural intensification across European agroecosystems.
Among the main expected outcomes of this proposal are European-wide evaluations of the changes in biodiversity, simplification of food webs and the potential for biological control of agricultural pests in arable landscapes caused by agricultural intensification using standardised methods, and large-scale assessments of agri-environmental schemes associated with recent CAP reforms.