Agriculture and environment in the EU-15
The IRENA project describes the interface between agriculture and environment in the EU-15 on the basis of 35 agri-environment indicators. It shows that farming has a significant impact on soil and water resources. For example, agriculture is responsible for about 50 % of water use in southern Europe and contributes about 50 % of total nitrogen pollution in the rivers of the EU-15. It is also responsible for around 10 % of total greenhouse gas emissions and 94 % of ammonia emissions in the EU-15. On the other hand, agriculture can also represent a source of renewable energy, e.g. through the production of biogas or biodiesel. Furthermore, farming is very important for the maintenance of biodiversity and landscapes in Europe. Although intensive agriculture damages biodiversity, extensive farming practices can actually help to maintain biodiversity in Europe. This is evident from analysis of land use in the Natura 2000 protected area network in the EU-15 (see Figure 1). A significant share of habitats in these conservation sites, particularly in the Mediterranean and mountainous areas, depend on extensive farming practices. To maintain extensive farming systems in such areas, targeted policy support is often called for.