The future of European semi-natural grasslands
Workshop invitation 20-21 October 2008
The Swedish Biodiversity Centre at the Agricultural University of Uppsala (SLU), the University of Rottenburg (HFR) and the European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism (EFNCP) invite you to a workshop on “the future of European semi-natural grasslands“ held at Konstanz, Southern Germany, October 20-21, 2008.
The overall aim is to identify gaps of knowledge and to suggest new research projects for the conservation of European semi-natural grasslands. What are the main obstacles for conservation? What needs to be done as regards research and the sharing of knowledge within and between countries?
Background – European semi-natural grasslands
In the last decades, most European countries have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of farms with grazing animals, leading to a decrease in the area of well-managed semi-natural grasslands. This is the effect of an economic system that favours the standardized “bulk“ production of food and fibre over small-scale farmers in Europe’s economic periphery, since it does not give full value to the variety of public goods produced on marginal grasslands. The new and acceding EU countries still have vast areas of well-managed grasslands, but their management is threatened by the economic changes induced by increased globalisation and a high demand for cereals and bioenergy.
Semi-natural grasslands form the base for the farmer’s production of food, which may be in the form of specialised products such as organic meat or branded cheese. These grasslands have a unique flora and fauna, and grassland habitats are among the most species-rich in the world. Semi-natural grasslands are highly appreciated for their aesthetic values, for recreation, and as a component in desirable landscapes, thereby providing a prerequisite for the economically important tourism industry in rural areas. Furthermore, grasslands are important for the local cultural identity in many areas, and to cultural history, being used in festivities and traditions, and forming a link to pre-industrial life and economy. They provide ecosystem services supporting the entire agricultural landscape, thereby making them a requirement for a generally ecologically-sustainable agriculture.
Accordingly, the continuing loss of semi-natural grasslands is a serious threat to the rural economy, to biodiversity conservation, to natural and cultural heritage, and to sustainable rural development.
Vision of the workshop
Our vision is that European countries will take a joint responsibility for our biologically and culturally valuable semi-natural grasslands and work across national borders through new research and knowledge exchanges. In order to help to establish a European agriculture that is ecologically, economically and socially sustainable, new knowledge is needed. It is necessary to take an interdisciplinary approach, including both research and work with stake holders including practitioners at different levels, from the farm to the international stage.
The overall aim of the workshop is to identify gaps of knowledge and to suggest new research projects for the conservation of European semi-natural grasslands. What are the main obstacles for conservation? What needs to be done as regards research and the sharing of knowledge within and between countries?
To be able to identify needs and formulate research projects, we invite researchers from different disciplines relating to grassland management to this workshop. Participation by NGOs, government authorities and stakeholders will also be necessary in order to enable us to identify key practical aspects to the question. Furthermore, we wish to have representatives from many different EU –Member States, and as well as other European countries, in order to address issues of common international interest.
The workshop will focus on discussion and will benefit from your active contribution of expertise in your personal field of experience. The venue is the scenic Isle of Mainau, Konstanz, Southern Germany. Konstanz is easily accessible from Zurich airport, Switzerland. There is no participation fee.
Further details can be obtained from the Swedish Centre for Biodiversity (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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