Delivery of ecosystem services from permanent grasslands in Europe: a systematic review

Delivery of ecosystem services from permanent grasslands in Europe: a systematic review
Delivery of ecosystem services from permanent grasslands in Europe: a systematic review

Schils R.L.M.1, Bufe C.1, Rhymer C.M.2, Francksen R.M.2, Klaus V.H.3, Abdalla M.4, Milazzo F.5, Lellei-Kovács E.6, Ten Berge H.1, Bertora C.7, Chodkiewicz A.8, Dǎmǎtîrcǎ C.7, Feigenwinter I.3, Fernández-Rebollo P.9, Ghiasi S.10, Hejduk S.11, Hiron M.12, Janicka M.8, Pellaton R.6, Smith K.E.13, Thorman R.13, Vanwalleghem T.5, Williams J.13, Zavattaro L.14, Kampen J.15, Derkx R.16, Smith P.4, Whittingham M.J.2, Buchmann N.3 and Newell Price J.P.13

1Agrosystems Research, Wageningen Plant Research, Droevendaalsesteeg 1, 6708 PB Wageningen, the Netherlands; 2School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University, United Kingdom; 3Department of Environmental Systems Science, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, ETH Zürich, Switzerland; 4Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom; 5Department of Agronomy, ETSIAM, University of Córdoba, Spain; 6Institute of Ecology and Botany, Centre for Ecological Research, Hungary; 7Department of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, University of Torino, Italy; 8Departmemt of Agronomy, Institute of Agriculture, Warsaw University of Life Sciences – SGGW, Poland; 9Department of Forestry, ETSIAM, University of Córdoba, Spain; 10Water Protection and Substance Flows Group, Agroscope Reckenholz, Switzerland; 11Department of Animal Nutrition and Forage Production, Mendel University, Czech Republic; 12Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden; 13ADAS, United Kingdom; 14Department of Veterinary Sciences, University of Torino, Italy; 15Biometris, Department of Plant Sciences, Wageningen University, the Netherlands; 16Library, Wageningen University and Research, the Netherlands


Permanent grasslands cover 34% of the European Union’s agricultural area and are vital for the delivery of essential ecosystem services. Over recent decades, permanent grasslands have suffered a significant decline and land use change continues to threaten their area. We performed a systematic review on the multifunctionality of permanent grasslands in Europe, examining the effects of land use change and management practices on 18 ecosystem service indicators. Based on the evidence in 696 out of 70,456 screened papers, we found that both land use change and intensification decreased multifunctionality. A lower management intensity was associated with benefits for biodiversity, climate regulation and water purification, but had a negative effect on the provision of high-quality animal feed. Increasing the number of species in the sward enhanced multifunctionality of permanent grassland without significant tradeoffs such as losses in production. We suggest that a combined approach of protection and management extensification will help secure multiple benefits from permanent grasslands.

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