A blueprint for the countryside


*Email: w.sutherland@uea.ac.uk


Much of the UK (and some of Western Europe) consists of ancient farmland and thus conservation effort is concentrated on maintaining intermediate levels of intervention. Conservation therefore differs markedly from that in much of the rest of the world. The future of farmland birds depends upon the success of agri-environment schemes and the changes in agriculture resulting from the development of new technologies. The experience of agri-environment schemes shows that they have patchy success. An alternative approach is to align conservation with the other external benefits to society of natural and semi-natural landscapes, such as health, flood protection, water purification and tourism and then restore natural ecosystems. Many of the biodiversity objectives are then produced while achieving other objectives and reducing expenditure. Within this framework it may also be possible, based on use of Vera's interpretation of landscape history, to create a few areas of natural ecosystem functioning. The expected future changes in EU agricultural support could provide the opportunity to achieve this.