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Steady decline for Nature Index values in cultural landscapes

Target

1.1 Norwegian ecosystems will achieve good status and deliver ecosystem services.

Indicator

Ecological status and trends for the following major ecosystems: marine and coastal waters, rivers and lakes, wetlands, forest, mountains and cultural landscapes (see the Norwegian Nature Index and the Water Management Regulations)

Nature Index values for cultural landscapes

Source: www.naturindeks.no

Are we moving in the right direction? Published by the Norwegian Environment Agency

The state of biodiversity in cultural landscapes (or open lowland) as measured by the Norwegian Nature Index has been following a negative trend since 1990.

In 2014, the Nature Index value for cultural landscape for Norway as a whole was 0.47 (in this system, the reference state is given the value 1. In semi-natural ecosystems such as cultural landscape, the reference state is defined to correspond to optimum biodiversity under a traditional management regime.) The Nature Index value for cultural landscapes is somewhat higher in North Norway than in the rest of the country.

Cultural landscapes (or open lowland) in this context consist of open areas below the treeline where the vegetation is semi-natural. The state of biodiversity here is assessed using indicator species that are mainly associated with habitat types such as coastal heathland and semi-natural meadows, which have been formed through long periods of traditional management, including grazing, mowing and burning of the vegetation. There are many light-demanding species in these habitats that are dependent to a varying extent on an active management regime.

There has been a negative trend in the state of biodiversity in cultural landscapes for many years throughout the country. These areas have been changing over a long period with alterations in agricultural techniques and land use. There has been a dramatic shift from traditional farming techniques to intensive agriculture, including tilling for crop production and the application of nutrients in the form of mineral fertilisers. At the same time, many areas of traditional pasture and meadow have been abandoned, and open landscapes such as coastal heathlands and herb-rich hay meadows are becoming overgrown with trees and shrubs.

Changing agricultural techniques have had negative impacts on species and ecosystems that are adapted to a traditional management regime, and the 20th century saw a steep decline in the area of semi-natural meadow, coastal heathland, boreal heath and tidal meadow in Norway.