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Institute of

LV Rural Studies


Effects of the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU on the conversion of biodiversity of grassland (GAPGrün)

Flowering wet meadow
© Thünen-Institut/Norbert Röder
Due to the Greening grassland in SPA must not be ploughed

Effects of the new policy framework of the CAP on the biodiversity of grasslands  (GAPGrün)

Starting with the agricultural reform of 2013 new instruments for grassland conservation and protection have been adopted. They have been implemented with the intention to stop the strong decline of biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. One of the crucial factors is the ongoing reduction of species-rich grassland.

Background and Objective

High prices of agricultural products and the growing use of biomass as an energy source increased the demand for a more intensive use of grassland. Especially the area of fallow and low input grassland areas was decreasing for a long time. To counter these trends the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the EU focused more on environmental objectives. Therefore in Germany the conversion of grassland into cropland is prohibited. Furthermore on European scale the definition of grassland has been broadened extending the areas for which direct payments may be obtained. Therefore also some of the biotopes valuable for nature conservation became eligible for funding.

Our project addressed the resulting effects on nature conservation. We also assessed the efficiency of the funding instruments applied in Germany.

Target Group

Ministries of Agriculture and Environment, farmers, consulting services, EU-commission


Based on data of the integrated accounting and control system (IACS) we analyzed the development of the grassland area and its utilization intensity in the period 2010-2016 for 7 German Länder. We took information on site specific conditions and the local agricultural structure into account. Some of the analyzed factors were: agri-environmental schemes, location in a protected area, stocking density or slope. We further linked the IACS data with information of the monitoring schemes on High nature value farmland and meadow birds. Based on this newly derived dataset we quantified the influence of changes in the land use on these environmental indicators and improved the extrapolation on the national level. In addition we scanned regional development programs on a European scale, identifying promising support schemes for species-rich grasslands.

We provided recommendation for the future development of the CAP with respect to the protection of grassland.

Data and Methods

Based on data on land use and agricultural production, we present the development of grassland use. For this purpose, geostatic methods are used to link data from the Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS), which among other things records the land use and livestock management of farms, with further data on site conditions and biodiversity indicators. This linkage makes it possible to examine the relevant influencing variables for changes in grassland-related biodiversity in more detail.

In addition, we carry out document analyses and interviews in order to

  • present successful examples of conservation of high nature value grassland in other EU Member States,
  • to get an assessment of the effectiveness and efficiency of the new instruments for grassland conservation from the point of view of farm managers and administrators,
  • to analyse under which framework conditions the conservation of grassland is efficiently promoted by agricultural policy.

Based on the findings, we draw up recommendations for the further reform of greening in order to achieve a more efficient use of subsidies in practical implementation with regard to nature conservation and environmental protection.

Our Research Questions

  • How can we explain the differences in the various statistics on grassland? Which relevance do these differences have for environmental protection?
  • Is the Greening contributing to a better protection of grasslands?
  • How do agri-environmental and climate schemes contribute to the protection of grassland?
  • How do the less-favored area payments contribute to the protection of?
  • How is HNV-grassland supported in other EU member states?  


The development of permanent grassland (PG) area and intensity of use was investigated using IACS data from the German states of BB, BW, NI, NW, RP and SH for the years 2010 to 2015. The influence of farm, regional and site factors was analysed. The focus was on possible changes caused by the CAP, which first became apparent in 2015, but also on the distribution of the PG with its use intensities in general.

Core results of the data analysis:

  • Even though PG area increased by 1.5% in 2014 to 2015, this will primarily be existing grassland and not new establishment. The reason for this is the extension of the grassland definition according to Article 4 (1) h) of Regulation (EU) 1307/2013, according to which, for example, heaths now is eligible as grassland. Furthermore, new allocations of payment entitlements provided an incentive for the subsequent declaration of PG areas.
  • PG is primarily located in regions with below-average yield potential (soil index < 50). In 2015, the PG area decreased compared to 2014, especially on the poor sites, while it increased on the better ones. The latter is likely to be explained by the alignment of payment entitlements, which led to previously unreported PG being reported.
  • From 2014 to 2015, a decrease in PG was observed on flat terrain. This is mainly due to an extensive conversion of grassland in Lower Saxony as a result of the implementation of the CAP reform: between 19 December and 31 December 2014 the ban on conversion was lifted here.
  • The largest change in terms of area by farm orientation from 2010 to 2015 was the decline in PG in dairy farms in the normal landscape. In the same period, the dairy herd increased. Feeding, especially of high-yielding dairy cows, is only conditionally linked to grassland.
  • The intensity of use of PG is at least 15 % lower in specially protected areas (measured in roughage-eating livestock units per hectare of main forage area (RLU/MFA)) compared to the normal landscape, whereby the average stocking rate varies greatly in the protected areas. Farms with a stocking rate between 0.3 and 1 RLU/MFA are classified as low to moderately intensive; these farms are characterised by a particularly high proportion of valuable HNV grassland.
  • Against the background that PG in protected areas is disproportionately often farmed by organic farms, it is critical to see that these farms are exempt from greening. This means that these farms can convert grassland without being penalised under the CAP, provided they do not receive support under the second pillar, which prohibits this. In some federal states the prohibition of grassland conversion is not part of the support requirements for organic farming (e.g. Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, Brandenburg).
  • The project provides evidence that an increase in management intensity (measured in RLU/MFA per monitoring area) leads to a decline in some meadow bird species.
  • Much valuable HNV grassland is located in large farms. It would therefore be desirable if thresholds for agri-environmental and climate measures did not exclude these farms, or if the attractiveness of participation were increased by significantly lowering restrictions with regard to maximum payment amounts per farm.

Links and Downloads

Framework project: Analysis of the Greening

Involved external Thünen-Partners

Funding Body

  • Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)
    (national, öffentlich)


11.2015 - 11.2019

More Information

Project funding number: FKZ 3515 88 0100
Funding program: BMUB - Umweltforschungsplan
Project status: finished

Publications to the project

  1. 0

    Schoof N, Luick R, Ackermann A, Baum S, Böhner HGS, Röder N, Rudolph S, Schmidt TG, Hötker H, Jeromin H (2019) Auswirkungen der neuen Rahmenbedingungen der Gemeinsamen Agrarpolitik auf die Grünland-bezogene Biodiversität [online]. Bonn: BfN, 234 p, BfN Skripten 540, zu finden in <> [zitiert am 04.09.2019], DOI:10.19217/skr540

  2. 1

    Luick R, Freese J, Reisinger E, Röder N, Schoof N (2019) Der agrarpolitische Rahmen. In: Naturnahe Beweidung und NATURA 2000 : Ganzjahresbeweidung im Management von Lebensraumtypen und Arten im europäischen Schutzgebietssystem NATURA 2000. 2. überarb. und erw. Aufl. Bad Sassendorf: Arbeitsgemeinschaft Biologischer Umweltschutz, pp 303-328

  3. 2

    Ackermann A, Röder N, Rudolph S, Baum S (2019) Does nature protection status affect grassland utilisation and farming? - A German case study. Grassl Sci Europe 24:110-112

  4. 3

    Röder N, Ackermann A, Baum S, Böhner HGS, Rudolph S, Schmidt TG (2019) Small is beautiful? Is there a relation between farmed area and the ecological output? - Results from evaluation studies in Germany : paper prepared for presentation at the 172nd EAAE Seminar "Agricultural Policy for the Environment or Environmental Policy for Agriculture?" ; May 28-29, 2019, Brussels. 15 p

  5. 4

    Baum S, Rudolph S, Röder N, Ackermann A (2019) The unknown 25% - What kind of grassland is not reported to IACS? Grassl Sci Europe 24:116-118

  6. 5

    Röder N, Ackermann A, Rudolph S (2018) Does conservation status influence the temporal development of agriculturally used permanent grassland in Germany? In: Horan B (ed) Sustainable meat and milk production from grasslands : proceedings of the 27th General Meeting of the European Grassland Federation, Cork, Ireland, 17-21 June 2018. Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Publ, pp 667-669

  7. 6

    Röder N, Ackermann A, Baum S, Rudolph S (2018) Status quo und aktuelle Entwicklungen der landwirtschaftlichen Flächennutzung in Deutschland [inkl. Zusatzmaterial]. Natur Landsch 93(6):250-257, DOI:10.17433/6.2018.50153581.250-257

  8. 7

    Röder N (2018) Zur Situation der Grünlandbewirtschaftung in Deutschland : Kurzstellungnahme für den Thüringer Landtag. Braunschweig: Thünen-Institut für Ländliche Räume, 17 p

  9. 8

    Laggner B, Röder N (2017) Does land fragmentation currently limit grazing in dairy farms in Lower Saxony, Germany? In: Porqueddu C, Franca A, Lombardi G, Molle G, Peratoner G, Hopkins A (eds) Grassland resources for extensive farming systems in marginal lands: major drivers and future scenarios : Proceedings of the 19th Symposium of the European Grassland Federation ; 7-10 May 2017. Sassari: EGF, pp 179-181

  10. 9

    Röder N, Laggner B, Osterburg B, Schmidt TG (2016) Grassland: quantification of the environmental services provision. Grassl Sci Europe 21:684-686

  11. 10

    Luick R, Röder N (2016) The first pillar of the new CAP - implications for low input grasslands. Grassl Sci Europe 21:603-605

  12. 11

    Röder N, Schmidt TG, Osterburg B (2015) Grünland: Mehr als nur Viehfutter. Braunschweig: Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, 6 p, Thünen à la carte 1, DOI:10.3220/CA_1_2015

  13. 12

    Osterburg B, Röder N, Schmidt TG (2014) Grünlandschutz in der GAP : Erfordernisse, Erfahrungen, Erwartungen. Loccumer Prot 2014,05:121-127

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