Agriculture has been identified as one of the main drivers of environmental degradation in the European Union (EU). It can have negative impacts on air, water, soil and biodiversity. The condition of agroecosystems is affected by soil degradation, especially by soil erosion, which reduces agroecosystems’ capacity to provide essential ecosystem services. Therefore, it is necessary to explore synergies and trade-offs between pressures, ecosystem condition and services to create relevant information for policy and decision-makers to implement sustainable response actions.
As part of the EU environmental policy, the Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES) Working Group developed appropriate concepts to assess and link ecosystem condition and services. This study aims to test the indicators proposed by MAES to assess ecosystem condition and link it with the ecosystem services provision. For this, we applied a suggested operational framework developed in the context of the Biodiversity Strategies 2020 and 2030 for the integrated assessment of agroecosystems and regulating ecosystem service control of erosion rates supply at European scale. We quantified and mapped indicators for ecosystem condition, environmental and anthropogenic pressures and soil erosion control. We explored the relationships between the respective indicators and the capacity of agroecosystems to control soil erosion across the different Environmental Zones (EZ).
Our results indicate that, in general, European agroecosystems have a high capacity to control soil erosion with some variations within the EZ. Supply capacity is positively, negatively and not correlated with the various pressure and condition indicators. Management and climate indicators play a significant role in the assessment of this service. These results highlight that conservational management practices are fundamental to reduce soil loss and improve agroecosystem condition. However, the design and implementation of such management practices must consider regional and local landscape characteristics, agricultural practices and the needs and opportunities of stakeholders.