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New Article: Demands on land: Mapping competing societal expectations for the functionality of agricultural soils in Europe


  • European citizens expect farmers to deliver multiple functions from their land.
  • The nature and magnitude of these ‘societal demands’ differ between Member States.
  • the authors map these demands by reviewing the EU policies on sustainable land management.
  • Countries with the lowest societal demands have invested most in sustainability.

The proposed Strategic Plans allow for context-specific land management practices.The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union (EU) has been highly successful in securing the supply of food from Europe’s agricultural land. However, new expectations have emerged from society on the functions that agricultural land should deliver, including the expectations that land should regulate and purify water, should sequester carbon to contribute to the mitigation of climate change, should provide a home for biodiversity and allow for the sustainable cycling of nutrients in animal and human waste streams. Through a series of reforms of the CAP, these expectations, or ‘societal demands’ have translated into a myriad of EU and national level policies aimed at safeguarding the sustainability and multifunctionality of European agriculture, resulting in a highly complex regulatory environment for land managers.

The current review of the EU agricultural policy seeks to simultaneously simplify this regulatory environment and raise the ambition for safeguarding environmental sustainability and climate action, through the development of targeted Strategic Plans at national level, which allows for a more targeted and context-specific approach to incentivising sustainable land management practices.

This study was conducted as part of the LANDMARK (LAND Management: Assessment, Research, Knowledge Base) project.

Find the full text open access article  ; Environmental Science & PolicyVolume 100, October 2019, Pages 113-125