Relevance and functionality of semi-natural grasslands in Europe: status quo and future prospective
Background, themes and questions <ul><li>Imprecise definitions of ‘semi-natural grassland’ make it difficult to quantify e...
Background, themes and questions 2 <ul><li>Policy limitations, often conflict with other objectives. </li></ul><ul><li>Imp...
The status quo <ul><li>Estimates of 15-25% of EU15 farmland area is of high conservation value. </li></ul><ul><li>Not all ...
Agricultural productivity <ul><li>Forage production (DM yield) highly variable but can be acceptable for low-input systems...
 
Productivity and forage quality <ul><li>Not simply digestible carbohydrate and crude protein. </li></ul><ul><li>Macro-nutr...
Livestock performance from semi-natural grassland
Livestock performance from grazing and conserved SNG forage <ul><li>High % of herbs and legumes improves milk yield. </li>...
 
Saltmarsh Heather: mainly dry, acidic  Improved:  lowland with Lolium  Moorland: mosaics wet and dry SNG
Biodiversity as an input Plant fatty acid content (mg 100g -1  dry weight) Salt-marsh Heathland Moorland Sig. SFA 610 b 51...
Lamb meat quality from SNG: healthiness and meat flavour <ul><li>All groups of lambs had similar muscle fat (3%). </li></u...
Ecosystem services <ul><li>1)  Provisioning services :  products of ecosystems such as food (e.g. meat, dairy products, he...
Ecosystem services <ul><li>1)  Provisioning services : </li></ul><ul><li>2)  Supporting services : </li></ul><ul><li>3)  R...
Future prospective <ul><li>What are the drivers of change that are affecting land use and determining rural policy and wha...
Multi-functionality: a unifying concept for policy makers to maximize the relevance of semi-natural grassland?
Outstanding research issues  <ul><li>Agronomic: establishment and persistence of suitable herbs. Seed procurement: commerc...
Conclusions  <ul><li>Important roles of SNG, now and in the future. </li></ul><ul><li>Agronomic production may be low cf. ...
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Relevance and functionality of semi-natural grasslands in Europe: status quo and future prospective

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  • Biodiversity usually thought of as an output of agricultural management. But can it be an input? Forage from different pasture types does differ, but can it influence the quality of meat produced?
  • Relevance and functionality of semi-natural grasslands in Europe: status quo and future prospective

    1. 1. Relevance and functionality of semi-natural grasslands in Europe: status quo and future prospective
    2. 2. Background, themes and questions <ul><li>Imprecise definitions of ‘semi-natural grassland’ make it difficult to quantify extent in Europe today. </li></ul><ul><li>Most remaining SNG is a product of past farming systems. </li></ul><ul><li>Major losses of SNG from past (and continuing) agricultural intensification and abandonment. </li></ul><ul><li>Policy mechanisms to protect SNG for the future, and also to recreate some SNG habitats (but mainly in the context of nature conservation). </li></ul>
    3. 3. Background, themes and questions 2 <ul><li>Policy limitations, often conflict with other objectives. </li></ul><ul><li>Importance of recognizing the wider economic, environmental, cultural and socio-economic values of SNG. </li></ul><ul><li>Future challenges: climate change and responses to it; security of food, energy, water etc in a changing world. What is future role for SNG (and restore/ recreate SNG habitats (in the context of nature conservation). </li></ul>
    4. 4. The status quo <ul><li>Estimates of 15-25% of EU15 farmland area is of high conservation value. </li></ul><ul><li>Not all this is SNG, unevenly distributed and of variable conservation value, and many inconsistencies in conservation targets. </li></ul><ul><li>SNG has several functions: </li></ul><ul><li>agriculture – production, feed value and links with speciality food; </li></ul><ul><li>biodiversity and conservation; </li></ul><ul><li>ecosystem services </li></ul>
    5. 5. Agricultural productivity <ul><li>Forage production (DM yield) highly variable but can be acceptable for low-input systems. </li></ul><ul><li>High species biodiversity = high herbage production in numerous studies… reasons seasonal and spatial complementarity, N fixation, buffering effects. </li></ul><ul><li>Root exploitation: tap roots etc., VAM, water (+ nutrient uptake) and improved soil structure.. </li></ul><ul><li>But..herbage not always of useful feed value. </li></ul>
    6. 7. Productivity and forage quality <ul><li>Not simply digestible carbohydrate and crude protein. </li></ul><ul><li>Macro-nutrients: sometimes greater K, Mg uptake and cycling, plus micro-nutrients (Ca, Na). P may be too low. </li></ul><ul><li>Sward intake: physical effects including adverse competition, anti-feedant responses (shading rosette spp., thorns etc) </li></ul><ul><li>Vitamins and secondary metabolites: pharmacologically active (possibly toxic) compounds positive or negative implications for livestock health and product quality. </li></ul>
    7. 8. Livestock performance from semi-natural grassland
    8. 9. Livestock performance from grazing and conserved SNG forage <ul><li>High % of herbs and legumes improves milk yield. </li></ul><ul><li>Other situations show low animal liveweight gain. </li></ul><ul><li>Interactions with livestock breeds (SNG inappropriate for modern breeds ?) </li></ul><ul><li>Livestock diets and effects on milk and meat. </li></ul>
    9. 11. Saltmarsh Heather: mainly dry, acidic Improved: lowland with Lolium Moorland: mosaics wet and dry SNG
    10. 12. Biodiversity as an input Plant fatty acid content (mg 100g -1 dry weight) Salt-marsh Heathland Moorland Sig. SFA 610 b 511 a 430 a ** MUFA 157 137 119 ns n-6 PUFA 414 b 399 b 233 a * n-3 PUFA 1023 c 708 b 477 a *** Total FA 2541 b 2158 b 1512 a ***
    11. 13. Lamb meat quality from SNG: healthiness and meat flavour <ul><li>All groups of lambs had similar muscle fat (3%). </li></ul><ul><li>Lamb from both heather and moorland SNG was higher in all n-6 fatty acids and also C22:6n-3 </li></ul><ul><li>Moorland SNG lambs had higher CLA levels in relation to trans-C18:1. </li></ul><ul><li>Vitamin E was highest in lamb from heather SNG. </li></ul><ul><li>Flavour scores for all lambs were high: meat from moorland and saltmarsh SNG had highest scores. </li></ul><ul><li>Fat from lambs grazing semi-improved control pasture scored highest for abnormal odour and lowest in lamb flavour </li></ul>
    12. 14. Ecosystem services <ul><li>1) Provisioning services : products of ecosystems such as food (e.g. meat, dairy products, herbs, honey), genetic material (e.g. for new forage accessions and seed for habitat restoration projects), fresh water. </li></ul><ul><li>2) Supporting services : underpin other services, e.g. soil formation, C fixation, nutrient cycling, water cycling. </li></ul><ul><li>3) Regulating services : </li></ul><ul><li>4) Cultural services : </li></ul>
    13. 15. Ecosystem services <ul><li>1) Provisioning services : </li></ul><ul><li>2) Supporting services : </li></ul><ul><li>3) Regulating services : stability to the natural environment, e.g. through regulating air quality (mitigating GHG emissions - CO 2 sequestration and CH 4 capture), water quality, soil stabilization / erosion control) run-off (water retention and stem flow regulation). </li></ul><ul><li>4) Cultural services : non-material benefits that can affect health and well-being, e.g. through recreational opportunities and aesthetic experiences (including food-related cultural experience beyond food as a provision). </li></ul>
    14. 16. Future prospective <ul><li>What are the drivers of change that are affecting land use and determining rural policy and what do they mean for the future of SNG? </li></ul><ul><li>Global population growth, declining resources and food security. </li></ul><ul><li>Climate change. </li></ul><ul><li>Bio-energy cropping. </li></ul><ul><li>Greater importance of socio-economic benefits ? </li></ul>
    15. 17. Multi-functionality: a unifying concept for policy makers to maximize the relevance of semi-natural grassland?
    16. 18. Outstanding research issues <ul><li>Agronomic: establishment and persistence of suitable herbs. Seed procurement: commercial, local or autochthonous. </li></ul><ul><li>Utilization under grazing and mowing consistent with persistence and acceptable feed value. Silage. </li></ul><ul><li>Livestock health, grazing behaviour/ diet selection; innate wisdom. Horses. </li></ul><ul><li>Non-agricultural roles of multi-species swards </li></ul><ul><li>Product quality and its marketing. </li></ul>
    17. 19. Conclusions <ul><li>Important roles of SNG, now and in the future. </li></ul><ul><li>Agronomic production may be low cf. intensive grassland but clear potential to support livestock production on marginal land, linked to niche / quality products and environmental and social outcomes. </li></ul><ul><li>Many uncertainties for future rural land use affect SNG; issues of resilience and vulnerability. </li></ul><ul><li>New leitmotiv of security (food, energy, water, agri-inputs, financial) permeating policy development. </li></ul><ul><li>Future prospectives for SNG depend on strengthening of overlapping values of economic production, environmental and social benefits. </li></ul>
    18. 20. Thank you for your attention

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