Vital support for preserving grassland biodiversity
Semi-natural grasslands are among the habitats that are richest in species, and are important for biodiversity. In Sweden and the rest of the EU, however, these areas have shrunk since the 1980s, and species diversity has decreased. This is largely due to the regulations governing farmers’ management of their land. With research in the natural sciences, economics and sociology, the programme analysed the regulations, proposed various amendments, investigated the farmers’ livelihoods and carried out large-scale field trials to enhance biodiversity.
What results has the programme had?
Researchers in the programme identified a large number of shortcomings in regulations and grant systems. This helped to make it possible for many of them to be remedied. One example is that, when grazing livestock are scarce, it is advantageous for them to graze in given fields not annually but every other year, which the farm grants did not previously allow. The researchers also discovered that there is more scope for interpreting EU regulations than used to be thought, and this can promote wise decision-making that favours biodiversity.
Through large-scale experimentation in meadows and wetlands, new and better knowledge of how to manage them for the purpose of restoration has been developed. Both directly and indirectly as a result of the HagmarksMISTRA programme, the decline in the extent of semi-natural grasslands in Sweden has been arrested. In other European countries, the decrease in grasslands has been more dramatic.
Who benefits from the results?
The research has provided more knowledge for farmers wishing to learn how to manage natural resources wisely. It has also been useful for the Swedish Board of Agriculture, which has adjusted its regulations in various ways in response to the new knowledge produced by the programme. Members of the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) and other decision-makers, and also journalists, have also benefited from the programme thanks to the popular-science books issued and the hundred or so lectures and seminars that took place within the framework of the programme.
‘HagmarksMISTRA has been a superb source of knowledge in work on these tremendously important biotopes. I have found this immensely useful in my work, not least since the programme summarised its results in the book Mångfaldsmarker.’
Ola Jennersten, senior advisor at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)