Babai D, Molnár Zs et al: Do conservation and agri-environmental... (2015)

Babai D., Tóth A., Szentirmai I., Bíró M., Máté A., Demeter L., Szépligeti M., Varga A., Molnár Á., Kun R., Molnár Zs.
Do conservation and agri-environmental regulations effectively support traditional small-scale farming in East-Cental European cultural landscapes?
Biodiversity and Conservation 24: pp. 1-23. (2015)

High biocultural diversity is often found in landscapes where farming practices have preserved diverse habitats and many ‘traditional’ cultural features. We assessed what impacts conservation and agri-environmental regulations had and have on the maintenance of some elements in traditional hay meadow management in two such cultural landscapes (Gyimes—Romania; Őrség—Hungary). Data were gathered by interviews with local farmers and conservation scientists, discussed with farmers. We found that extensive farming was not given adequate weight and explicit function in the regulatory frameworks either in the landscape where traditional farming is still actively practiced, or where it has mostly vanished and/or was transformed. Of the 25 traditional management elements documented in Gyimes, regulations affected seven components directly, and one more indirectly. Four of these impacts were negative and four were positive. Of the 20 traditional management elements in Őrség, 11 elements were regulated, and five more were affected indirectly. Only two elements were affected positively. Our data show that for a more efficient support of traditional farming, more traditional elements must be encouraged, e.g. hayseed scattering, mowing with small machinery, manual cleaning of weeds and shrubs, manual hay gathering and extensive manuring. The role of increasing the spatial scale of regulations, considering the whole socio-ecological system and the need for region-specific regulations are discussed. We argue that in those landscapes where traditional small-scale farming is still actively practiced, decision-makers should understand local management practices and concepts first, instead of imposing requirements on farmers that are alien to the local landscape and society.