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Agri-Environmental Indicators / Land

In most countries agriculture is the main user of land resources, and changes in agricultural land use is one of the major driving forces in global as well as local environmental change. Conversion of agricultural land to artificial surfaces (soil sealing) can have several environmental impacts on soil, water and biodiversity resources. A general decrease in agricultural areas has been observed in the last decades in industrialized countries as a consequence of growing demand for nature conservation areas, urban, industrial and infrastructural areas, amenity areas, and also as a consequence of land abandonment. Many land development activities result in land use change from agricultural land to artificial surfaces: transport infrastructure (motorways, railways, etc.), urban sprawl (housing and industrial developments, tourism and recreation facilities. Increased land development of ten results in higher prices for land and has an important impact on the environment and on agricultural landscapes. The impact is obviously very diversified in the case of a change to urban land compared to the case of land abandonment. Terrestrial protected areas are defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation; nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values” (Dudley, 2008). Protected areas are monitored as indicator 7.6 in the U.N. Millennium Indicators Frameworks (Proportion of terrestrial and marine areas protected). The extent of the protected areas is an indicator of Governments’ will to protect biodiversity, however, it does not furnish information on how well the areas are managed or that protection measures are effectively enforced. The indicator does not provide information on non-designated or internationally designated protected areas that may also be important for conserving biodiversity. For further details see also attached ANNEX: Agro-Environmental Indicators - Land.

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