PARTRIDGE is promoting nature-friendly, sustainable arable farming, alongside profitable farming across 10 demonstration sites in the North Sea Region.
In May of this year, the European Commission announced an ambitious Biodiversity Strategy to ensure that Europe’s biodiversity will be on the path to recovery by 2030. This strategy includes a goal to expand the network of protected areas, with a goal that 30% of the land and 30% of the seas in the EU should be protected within the next 10 years. Of this 30%, a third (10%) will be under strict protection, with minimum interference by human activity. This is a huge change, as currently only 3% of land and 1% of the European seas have this strict legal designation.
The Covid-19 Pandemic has highlighted that change is needed to reinstate the link between the health of our planet and the health of humans. The need for sustainable agriculture has never seemed more important with drastic changes urgently needed to protect and restore our environment, whilst feeding the growing world population. Within the EU Biodiversity Strategy, the EU Nature Restoration Plan aims to restore 10% of agricultural land to high-diversity landscape features (including buffer strips, hedges, ponds etc.). This will prevent soil erosion, enhance carbon sequestration, connectivity and ecosystem services, to allow a greater coexistence between humans and wildlife.
People need to re-connect with nature and realise just how much we depend on our environment. Recently published research from the World Economic Forum estimates that more than half of the world’s GDP depends on nature and its services and more than 75% of the global food crop relies, at least partially, on animal pollination. We have already seen significant negative effects from the way we are living in the modern world on our own environment and, to put it bluntly, we are in serious trouble if we do not turn things around rapidly.
You will have all also seen the news and the rise in environmental activists repeatedly declaring that climate change and the loss of our wildlife require action now. Sir David Attenborough’s recent documentary ‘Extinction: The Facts’ was a powerful message that the decline of our wildlife is happening at a faster rate than we thought. This crisis is driven by multiple drivers, including rapid development, inadequate resource management and the lack of awareness of the repercussions of ALL human activity and consumption. This current mass extinction event caused by this human activity is happening at the fastest rate in history, with one million species at risk from extinction. The need to address the biodiversity crisis is more important now than ever before – the only advantage we may have is that the current Covid-19 Pandemic may concentrate minds.
EU agri-environment schemes (AES) were set up in the 1980s to allow farmers to be compensated for taking out farmable land and setting it aside for nature. However, wildlife has continued to decline across all EU nations and soils continue to be degraded and become less fertile. Despite the best of intentions, the CAP’s AE schemes neither halted nor reversed the national decline of farmland biodiversity and they need to be amended urgently, with knowledge based on scientific and practical research learnt over the past four decades. One thing is for certain: There are several good examples across Europe where AES has managed to turnaround the fortunes of biodiversity – at least on a local scale.