farming continues to wreck Europe’s nature: even protected habitats and
wildlife are not immune.
In the wake of
shocking reports of insect and wildlife decline, attention is turning on
intensive farming in Europe.
agriculture has major negative impacts on Europe’s biodiversity - whether due
to pollution, pesticides, deteriorating soils, or unsustainable water use. But
even highly biodiverse EU protected nature areas are not immune.
Now a group of
environmental NGOs - Friends of the Earth Europe, together with BirdLife
Europe, European Environmental Bureau, and WWF - are calling on
Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella to use the remaining months left of his
mandate to leave a lasting legacy for nature by intervening
where EU governments are turning a blind eye to this destruction.
nature’s laws – the Birds and Habitats Directives – are world-leading and
protect threatened wildlife and habitats. But even these strong legal
protections are not enough to guarantee rare species and breeding habitats are
preserved from damage by industrial farming.
wildlife is unique in needing managed farm landscapes such as meadows for its
survival, and when farmers use agro-ecological methods in harmony with nature,
wildlife bounces back.
One example is
Castro Verde in Portugal, where an EU-funded nature-friendly farming scheme has
created an ‘island of nature’ in a sea of intensive agriculture. The scheme
promoted traditional land use with one year of crops followed by several years
of extensive grazing by sheep. This ensured that a unique flora and fauna was
preserved, including birds of prey and vultures, as well as increases of little
and great bustard. Castro Verde is now internationally renowned and was awarded
the status as a UNESCO world heritage site.
too often EU agricultural policy and
funds are not used to support farmers to work in harmony with nature. The results
can be devastating.
A number of cases illustrate why even rare and protected nature is falling
victim to destruction by intensive farming. And EU politicians are holding back
from challenging breaches of nature laws.
site where the impact of intensive farming is strongly felt is the Tablas de
Daimiel wetland in central Spain. The wetland, which has a high abundance and
diversity of birds, fish and aquatic plants, is one of numerous examples of
damage from intensive farming.
Tablas de Daimiel has an excessive number of illegal wells that are used by
farmers to intensively irrigate fields. These wells continue to drain this
wetland dry. It is an infamous case of wetland degradation - despite being a
protected site under EU nature laws. Between 2006 and 2009, the wetland
completely dried up causing a severe underground fire. This, together with
fertiliser run-off, have had dramatic consequences on the ecosystem.
EU enviornment Commissioner Vella has so far failed to act to protect the
wetland from industrial farming. The European Commission should bring an
infringement case against Spain for the lack of implementation of EU nature and
water legislation and ensure that Spanish authorities work with farmers to
control illegal water abstraction.
Lake Koroneia in Greece
abstraction for agriculture is also a problem for the fourth largest lake in
Greece, Lake Koroneia, and this is exacerbated by pollution from intensive
The lake used to be over 45 sq km in size but it has lost a third of its
surface water area in 30 years. This is bad news for the fish and birdlife that
call the lake home. Lake Koroneia is also currently polluted by runoff from a
nearby landfill site.Lake Koroneia hosts numerous threatened, endemic and rare
habitats, species and breeding, wintering or staging birds and is a Natura 2000
Vella must immediately tackle pollution from all sources including from
agriculture and ensure protected nature sites in Greece are properly managed:
currently only 30 out of 400 protected sites in Greece are being properly
Leave a legacy
NGOs are calling
on EU environment chief Karmenu Vella to ‘leave a legacy for nature’ in the final months of his post, by
ensuring illegal nature damage is robustly challenged.
society calls on EU decision makers to ensure an environmentally ambitious reform of the Common Agricultural Policy
- Set clear
and rigorous objectives holding Member States accountable: make the
specific objectives meaningful to properly address the current
environmental and societal challenges, including negative impacts beyond
Member States to define targets in relation to the Impact Indicators that
reflect actual progress on the ground;
50% of the CAP budget for environmental interventions;
- Ensure a
new enhanced conditionality and its enforcement;
governance and ensure the involvement of health and environmental
authorities and civil society.
Europe's wildlife is vanishing.
Intensive farming is polluting our rivers. #Nature
protection laws are being flouted. @KarmenVella
will you leave a lasting legacy for nature?#NatureAlert
Friends of the Earth (@foeeurope) March 6, 2019