A spatially explicit choice model to assess the impact of conservation policy on high nature value farming systems

Paulo Flores Ribeiro, Luís Catela Nunes, Pedro Beja, Luís Reino, Joana Santana, Francisco Moreira, José Lima Santos

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24 Citations (Scopus)
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High Nature Value (HNV) farmland is declining in the EU, with negative consequences for biodiversity conservation. Agri-environment schemes implemented under the Common Agricultural Policy have addressed this
problem, with recent proposals advocating direct support to HNV farming systems. However, research is lacking on the economics of HNV farming, which makes it difficult to set the level and type of support that ensure its sustainability. In this paper, we focused on a Special Protection Area for steppe bird conservation, analysing how economic incentives, biophysical and structural features govern the choice of farming system. We found that persistence of the traditional farming system important for steppe birds was associated with economic incentives, resistance to change, and good quality soils, whereas a shift to specialised livestock production systems was favoured by higher rainfall and less fragmented farms. A supply curve built using the choice model predicted that the proportion of traditional farming increased from 20% to 80% of the landscape, when economic incentives increased from about 100€/ha to 160€/ha. Overall, our study highlights the dependence of HNV farming systems on economic incentives, and provides a framework to assess the effects of alternative policy and market scenarios to sustain farmland landscapes promoting biodiversity conservation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-338
JournalEcological Economics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Discrete choice modeling
  • Common agricultural policy
  • Agri-environment schemes
  • Scenario assessment
  • Farming systems
  • High nature value farmland


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