High Nature Value (HNV) is a comparatively new term used to describe some of the oldest and most biodiversity rich farming and forestry systems in Europe, many of which are now under threat. On this HNV land, for hundreds or even thousands of years, semi-natural habitats and wild species have been interdependent with low-intensity management by local communities. IEEP has been a leading player in research and policy analysis focused on HNV farming since the term was first coined in an influential IEEP-led report in 1993.

Until the mid twentieth century, HNV farmland and forests were still widespread across much of the EU. Since then, a combination of intensification and industrialisation in some areas and simplification of management systems or land abandonment in others, has led to the large-scale loss of HNV land in the lowlands of Northern and North-Western Europe.

Extensive areas of HNV land have survived in parts of Central and Eastern Member States and in the Mediterranean basin, but these are at risk from powerful economic pressures that lead rapidly to abandonment or intensification, with consequent loss of both biodiversity and local management skills and knowledge.

Securing appropriate low-intensity management of the remaining HNV farmland and forests, and restoring recently abandoned HNV land, is essential for the EU to achieve its 2020 Biodiversity Strategy targets and secure the supply of key environmental public goods such as good soil functionality, carbon storage and the management of cultural landscapes.

IEEP was closely involved in defining the HNV impact indicator for monitoring and evaluating EU co-financed expenditure under 2007-13 Rural Development Programmes, and in the detailed guidance provided for Member States. Studies of land abandonment have focused on the problems facing HNV farming, especially low-intensity livestock systems that maintain the biodiversity of semi-natural habitats. IEEP has continued to promote discussion about the best use of CAP policy tools and the EU Forest Strategy to secure the long-term future of HNV farmland and forest management, and has gathered detailed evidence to inform and support future HNV land management policy at EU, national and regional level.