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07/09/2017 Unsustainable land use threatens European landscapes European Environment Agency

Unsustainable land use threatens European landscapes

Accelerating rates of construction, changing demographics, technological changes, and climate change are some
of the key drivers in uencing the use of Europes vast landscapes. A European Environment Agency report
published today says that the continents land use increasingly sees striking changes and con icts over land
demand which will require reconciling place-based management and macro policies to foster responsible land

Image barnyz /Flickr

The EEA report 'Landscapes in transition: an account of 25 years of land cover change in Europe,' takes a closer look at
the emerging trends over the last two and a half decades in land use and their environmental impacts. The dominant
trend is the continued and accelerating shift from rural to urban use, in uenced mostly by economic activities and urban
lifestyle demands such as high mobility and consumption patterns.
The increased covering up of fertile land with buildings, transport infrastructure and industry o ers economic bene ts
but also highlights the need to maintain Europe's natural and landscape resources. Pro-active and integrated policies on
land planning, agriculture, recreation, tourism, transport, energy and other sectors can limit the negative e ects of land
take. In cities, smart and sustainable solutions for urban development such as recycling old industrial lands into new
uses and creating more green spaces will be needed, the report says.

The report also highlights that good land management can lead to a wide diversity of land use between rural and urban
settings. It can also protect fertile lands for food and biomass production by ensuring e ective means to promote soil
functions, such as carbon storage and prevent soil erosion. As such, managing the land resource well is essential for a
wider societal transition to sustainability, the report argues.

People's surrounding physical landscapes can be useful for monitoring changes in society and the environment.
However, there are still signi cant gaps in the knowledge and policy responses to manage land in Europe in an 1/2
07/09/2017 Unsustainable land use threatens European landscapes European Environment Agency

environmentally and societally sound way. One key element to ll these gaps is Copernicus, the European satellite system
for monitoring the Earth, which will increase the precision and relevance of land-monitoring data.

Main trends
Expansion of urban areas (roads, rail, industrial parks, housing, commercial zones) continues to consume land
with productive soil and to fragment existing landscape structures. Of all land cover categories, arti cial areas
increased the most in terms of both net area and percentage change. This is a constant trend that has been
observed since 1990, although the increase of urban expansion in the 2006-2012 period was smaller than in the
2000-2006 period.
Europe's agricultural land continues to decrease at an average rate of 1,000 km per year (according to latest
data from 2006-2012). The structure and associated biodiversity of traditional rural landscapes in Europe
continues to be a ected by land take, agricultural intensi cation and farmland abandonment.
The area of European forests has increased since the 1960s. Today, Europe is one of the most forest-rich regions
in the world, with more than 42% of its land covered by forests. However, forest land cover ows indicate an
intensi cation of forest land use. This may lead to declining quality of forest ecosystems and needs to be balance
by conservation measures.

Related content

Landscapes in transition An account of 25 years of land cover change in Europe



Geographic coverage

Austria , Belgium , Bulgaria , Croatia , Cyprus , Czech Republic , Denmark , Estonia , Finland , France , Germany , Greece ,
Hungary , Iceland , Ireland , Italy , Latvia , Liechtenstein , Lithuania , Luxembourg , Malta , Netherlands , Norway , Poland ,
Portugal , Romania , Slovakia , Slovenia , Spain , Sweden , Switzerland , Turkey , United Kingdom

Temporal coverage

2000-2012 2/2