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Small natural features with large ecological roles in ancient agricultural landscapes of Central Europe – history, value, status, and conservation

Biological Conservation


Throughout history traditional land uses have created small natural features (SNFs) that can serve as biodiversity hotspots or remnants in agricultural landscapes that may otherwise support little biodiversity. SNFs in these landscapes include field and pasture margins, forest fringes, hedges, hollow ways (sunken lanes), stone walls, sand and gravel pits, and quarries. Many of these SNFs were established thousands of years ago as humans began to establish agricultural practices in Europe and other parts of the world. In some cases, these SNFs are old enough to have allowed unique ecological communities to develop or even new species to evolve. The consolidation of lands and intensification of agriculture and mining practices, however, have eradicated many of these SNFs; this decline started in the 19th century and has accelerated in recent years. Conservation practices that aim to maintain these anthropogenic SNFs are increasing, largely due to the growing recognition of their conservation value. New government initiatives, agro-environmental schemes, and greenways and ecosystem networks are being implemented with some success. These efforts, however, are far from perfect; much more work on management, restoration, and re-creation of anthropogenic SNFs is required to ensure that they persist and continue to support biodiversity in highly modified landscapes. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author(s): Poschlod, P; Braun-Reichert, R

Journal: Biological Conservation

Year: 2017


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