GrazeLIFE Leaflet
GrazeLIFE Layman’s Report
GrazeLIFE Recommendations
Herbiforests: How living forests can mitigate our climate and biodiversity crises
How European policies – especially the Common Agricultural Policy – can better support extensive grazing
GrazeLIFE Practitioners Guide

Also available in:

GrazeLIFE Final Report

Grazing for life

Online symposium presenting the outcomes of GrazeLIFE

Juan Carlos Muños / Rewilding Europe

Grazing for life

Online symposium presenting the outcomes of GrazeLIFE

Supporting extensive grazing for climate adaptation and biodiversity

Europe today is facing major environmental challenges, like climate change, biodiversity loss, soil degradation and increased frequency and severity of wildfires. On request of the European Commission, the GrazeLIFE consortium reflected on current policies, legislation and subsidy systems regarding different land-use forms. The study concluded that the benefits of extensive grazing can contribute significantly to solving some of the most pressing climate and biodiversity issues if only the EU and Member States are committed to apply their policies and regulations in a more effective way.

In this symposium,  GrazeLIFE consortium representatives from different parts of Europe will share their findings. They’ve come up with recommendations for both policymakers and practitioners to support extensive grazing systems, for the benefit of people and nature.


The event has passed but you can still watch the recording on Rewilding Europe’s YouTube channel.

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(click to learn more)

Guy Pe’er

Wouter Helmer

Julia Rouet-Leduc

Jaime Fagúndez

Desy Kostadinova

Hristo Hristov


10.30 Welcome and introduction
Mei Elderadzi – Rewilding Europe

10.35 Introduction of GrazeLIFE
Wouter Helmer – Rewilding Europe

GrazeLIFE results and recommendations

10.40 Sustainable grazing for multiple ecosystem services
Julia Rouet-Leduc – German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

11.00 Recommendations to improve grazing policies and legislation
Dr. Guy Pe’er – German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) / UFZ – Helmholtz

11.20 Symbolic handover of the GrazeLIFE reports with recommendations to Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director for Natural Capital, DG Environment, European Commission

11.25 Video Grazing for Life

11.30 Coffee break 

Grazing challenges in practice

11.40 Part 1. Learning from pioneering practice in the Rhodope Mountains
Desislava Kostadinova/Hristo Hristov – Rewilding Rhodopes

12.00 Part 2. Wild ponies are guardians of the mountains in Galicia, NW Spain
Dr. Jaime Fagundez – University of A Coruña

12.20 Follow-up actions on regional and national level
Wouter Helmer – Rewilding Europe

12.30 Closing


Nelleke de Weerd

GrazeLIFE – Literature review

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Scientific Advisory Committee

The GRAZELIFE consortium has found a team of scientists willing to advise it during the project. They are specialists in the field of wildfire prevention, agricultural policies, ecosystem services, herbivory and biodiversity.

Dr. Guy Pe’er

Dr. Elisabeth Bakker

Dr. Alfons van der Plas

Dr. Francisco Moreira


Coa Valley – Portugal

Two case studies will gather information of different grazing models in the Greater Coa Valley, their relation to wildfire prevention, and their competitive power compared to other land use models like forestry or simple land abandonment. One case study will focus on the Faia Brava reserve, the largest private nature reserve in Portugal, and the challenges of how to scale up the natural grazing model with semi-wild herbivores that is used. This study will provide an overview of financial and veterinarian restrictions that private organizations and landowners in NE-Portugal face when trying to set up grazing systems that limit wildfires and enhance biodiversity.

The second case study will collect information from different parts of the Coa Valley – with different land management models – and their vulnerability to wildfires in relation to human densities/activities. With the current frequency of wildfires in Portugal (on average once every 10–15 years), there is an urgent need to assess new grazing models and their effectiveness in fire prevention, carbon storage/sequestration and reaching biodiversity-targets, compared to the effects of land abandonment (leading to shrub-encroachment) and large-scale plantations of pine and eucalyptus forests. This study comes with comparable data regarding fire prevention, carbon storage/sequestration and biodiversity-targets for different land uses.

Galicia – Spain

In this part of Spain, wild ponies are present in several mountain ranges with uneven densities and different situations. Alternative uses include mainly forestry and land abandonment. The traditional system of wild ponies’ coexistence with the use of natural resources is now threatened due to conflicts with landowners, legal situations and policies, low market prices and wolf attacks.

After evaluation of the existing information on this topic, 3-5 subareas will be selected for an in-depth case study on the land management models that are used. In each case study owners` associations and other relevant stakeholders will be contacted to perform the questionnaires. By a combination of remote sensing and existing public data and fieldwork, cartography of the grazed areas will be developed, which will depict: i) natural and semi-natural habitats according to the Habitats directive, ii) landscape values, iii) fuel biomass and wildfire risk areas. These landscape and habitat properties will be compared among the different grazing models practiced in the region in order to investigate which one performs best regarding biodiversity maintenance and fire prevention.

Velebit – Croatia

Velebit Mountains and the adjacent Lika Plains belong to the biodiversity hotspots of Europe. These rich mosaic landscapes are at risk of bush encroachment on the one hand and intensive farming on the other hand. To protect these valuable lands, first pioneering actions with natural grazing by horses, cattle and wild ungulates have been set up in the last five years. Although these natural grazing models seems to be profitable, they can’t compete with upcoming large-scale sheep and cattle farming that benefit more from current subsidy-systems, even though the latter grazing models may perform less in biodiversity, landscape development and carbon storage. A practical assessment of these conflicts is desperately needed, which will require direct discussions with relevant authorities at the regional and national level, including a more in-depth cost-efficiency analysis with particular attention to alternative business models and subsidy systems, as well as current costs of fire prevention with a system in which natural grazing limits the scale of wildfires.

To address the question of environmental costs and benefits,  two field studies will be conducted in the Lika Plains and surrounding areas of the Velebit Mountains.  .

One study – in cooperation with the University of Zagreb and, within it, the Faculty of Agriculture – will assess the impact of different levels of grazing intensities, ranging from sheep and cattle farming (and mowing) to natural grazing with (semi)wild herbivores – on 1) biodiversity, 2) wildfire prevention and 3) carbon storage/sequestration in Lika Plains, based on data of the vegetation structure. The study will also examine the competitive power of these different grazing models in relation to (inter)national policies, legislation and subsidy-systems.

The second study will – via interviews – examine the impact of natural grazing on historically grazed, but now abandoned, areas in Velebit Mountains that face bush- and forest encroachment with growing risks for wildfires. The study will assess whether natural grazing systems can add value to spontaneous regrowth of forests in these abandoned areas with regard to biodiversity and whether it could help effective wildfire prevention. Legal, financial and policy barriers for implementation of the most effective management models will be mapped.

Rhodope Mountains – Bulgaria

With over 10 years of pioneering practices in natural grazing in the Eastern Rhodopes, there is much knowledge available regarding managers experiences with policy restrictions and subsidies and the effects of grazing models for biodiversity and ecosystem services. This needs proper documentation and analysis, also for the benefit of similar projects in other parts of Europe. Therefore, a quick scan will be performed about current practices on natural grazing in the Eastern Rhodopes and the challenges regarding competing land-use models.

Topics that will be addressed are:

  1. competition of natural grazing with subsidized herding (with dogs) of sheep and cattle,
  2. protection of natural grasslands (for example with susliks) versus subsidized ploughing of these grasslands,
  3. natural grazing with rare breeds and the legal restrictions (for example artificial shelters) that are connected to the subsidies of these breeds,
  4. advantages, disadvantages and barriers to obtain a ‘wild status’ for free roaming horses (Bulgaria is pioneering here),
  5. emerging knowledge about the way free roaming cattle and horses learn to defend themselves against large predators.

Danube Delta – Romania/Ukraine

With the collapse of natural populations of large herbivores and (later) livestock numbers due to land abandonment, large parts of the Danube Delta show a tendency to monocultures of vast reed beds. More or less by accident escaped/free roaming herds of horses and cattle locally show a positive impact on the structure of the reed beds, but on other places (for example Letea forest) their impact is heavily debated. The time is ripe to learn from these incidents and draw conclusions that can be useful for the larger delta-ecosystems.

Therefore, an ecological and socio-economical assessment will be conducted of the current grazing models in the Danube Delta (in the Ukrainian Outer Delta, on islands in Ukraine and Romania and in the Romanian dune complexes). This case study will gain from the diversity of different grazing models, especially on the Ukraine side, offering a valuable comparative study/natural experiment to learn from. Based on a habitat overview of the entire delta, the assessment will include an investigation of the scaling-up potential of the grazing models studied, but also describe existing limitations due to legal or financial restrictions. This subject has the full attention of the Biosphere Reserve and Delta Institute in Romania and Rewilding Ukraine is preparing a larger cooperation with these organisations in a long-term research project, beyond the timeframe of this Preparatory Project. In that sense the preliminary study within this GRAZELIFE-project should be considered as a first assessment to gather information that is both useful for EU-policies as well as for a more comprehensive study that will consider the whole delta ecosystem.

Oder Delta – Germany/Poland

For several years, both the Polish and German parts of the Oder Delta have seen a steady decline in grazing livestock production. This applies especially to semi-natural economic forms. Extensively grazed areas are increasingly threatened to lose their agricultural eligibility altogether, because of changes in the vegetation structure, or – in wetlands – due to the (temporary) existence of open water areas that are no longer recognized as agricultural land by the agricultural authorities. This development leads to individual areas taken out of agricultural use and forgoing natural succession in the best case, but more usually a change is made to more intensive cultivation methods instead of grazing. Both are usually associated with negative consequences for regional biodiversity. For this reason, there is much interest for nature conservation in determining the causes of the decline in grazing livestock farming and paying special attention to agricultural subsidies and their role in maintaining (extensive, sustainable) grazing or altering land-use.

For this reason two case studies will be conducted (one on the German side and one on the Polish side) to examine the responses of landowners and –users to the agricultural support in the last and current funding periods in both countries, with both the first pillar (Direct Payments) and the second pillar (Agri-Environmental-Climate Measures) of the CAP. The focus will be on those land managers who are either currently practicing near-natural grazing or have given up this method with the change from the last to the current agricultural subsidy period. In particular, beneficial or obstructive framework conditions for near-natural grazing as well as any changes with a changeover to the current funding period (2014–2021) will be examined. This analysis is done separately for the German and the Polish side in order to identify national and regional differences in programming and implementation.

As a result, insights should be gained as to which parameters need to be changed within the agricultural promotion in order to create conditions for a spatial expansion of more sustainable grazing practices and, above all, for more natural grazing methods.

Lowland Rivers Rhine and Meuse – Netherlands/Belgium

The Dutch floodplains of the rivers Rhine and Meuse have a 30-year history of natural grazing projects by conservation organizations, with excellent results regarding biodiversity. However, for landowners it increasingly appears more attractive to use farm cattle and also for farmers it is more profitable to continue less sustainable models, because of subsidies related to more intense grazing and mowing systems. This problem may have worsened with the recent CAP reform reintroducing coupled-payments (i.e., payments that are coupled with production) after a gradual decrease of such payments since the 90s. As this issue will be addressed more generally in the Oder Delta case studies, the Dutch input will focus more on two more specific challenges related to natural grazing:

  1. legal restrictions towards cross-border grazing projects (here between the Netherlands and Belgium) and
  2. the ecological value of (regarding animal medicines) clean manure in grazed ecosystems.

Specifically, we will examine the problem with cross-border movements of grazing herds. At the moment this is very difficult because of (inter)national legislation, therefore limiting possibilities for large scale grazing projects in border regions. A case study in the Border-Meuse region will provide information on this topic and possible options to overcome these limitations, which can be useful for other European border areas as well.

A second case study will examine the role of manure in ecosystems by comparing the flora and fauna of manure of (semi-)wild herbivores with that of livestock grazing in nature reserves. The use of, for example, deworming medicines, can be shown to make a huge difference in terms of biodiversity and will be an extra argument for natural grazing that can be applied to other European regions as well. The case studies will result in recommendations regarding cross-border grazing projects and the value of faeces from untreated animals in (semi)natural ecosystems.


Encouraging animal keeping is one of the key priorities of agricultural policy in Lithuania, therefore this Member State seeks more flexibility to grazing management strategies that can support EU-goals on biodiversity and climate mitigation along with securing farmers’ incomes. To make this approach available within the European context of this Preparatory Project, a better understanding of the Lithuanian situation is essential. For the Lithuanian situation it is useful to check the implementation of this strategy in the field, with relevant stakeholders regarding grazing management systems.

The case study will analyse different grazing models and best practices of animal grazing in Lithuania implemented in different ecological (e.g. different habitat types) and socio-economic contexts (e.g. involvement in implementation of Pillar 2 of the CAP (Rural Development Programme). To realize this targeted farming areas will be screened with multispectral aerial photos made by the associated beneficiary BEF-LT. This would allow a rapid, but still comprehensive assessment of vegetation diversity and structure in targeted areas, contributing to defining the most useful grazing models. The action will specifically focus on CAP payment systems applied in targeted field farms. Experts will analyse benefits and limitations of the applied measures and what improvements (administrative, management requirements, etc.) could be made to maximize the delivery of ecosystem services of Regulation & Maintenance. This case study will thereby develop recommendations how Rural Development Program in Lithuania can be improved to perform better delivery of targeted ecosystem services.


Rewilding Europe – Coordinating Beneficiary

Rewilding Europe (RE) is a Europe-oriented nature conservation NGO, recognized as charity by the Dutch law (ANBI-status by Dutch Tax Authority), whose activities focus on allowing natural processes to shape our landscapes. This is done in a way that such landscapes help solving modern socio-economic issues like climate adaptation, flood protection and fire prevention. At the same time, our approach creates attractive landscapes that support biodiversity conservation and create a base for new local economies, using different sectors such as nature-based tourism. By involving local communities in this process, we try to establish new sustainable rural economies.

Herbivory is one of the key-processes at the basis of many European natural landscapes and their rich biodiversity, and this includes natural grazing by large herbivores like bison, deer, wild horses and bovines (with the latter two extinct in the wild). It’s estimated that more than 50% of Europe’s biodiversity is directly or indirectly linked to herbivory. Land abandonment (between 0,5 and 1 mio/ha/yr (IEEP, 2011)) in parts of Europe, puts this relationship at risk. After millions of years of natural grazing, followed by thousands of years of livestock grazing (which gradually replaced wild herbivores), these landscapes now show a break in the grazing tradition. With the farmers and shepherds, grazing livestock is rapidly declining and almost absent in many regions, while most wild herbivores have become extinct or survived only in very low numbers.

Rewilding Europe and its partners in more than 25 European countries are involved in setting up and supporting new herbivore systems in rewilding areas. The main aim of this specific activity is to bring back and test the process of natural grazing in different eco- and climate regions and its impact on biodiversity, landscape development, trophic chains, and how this can support wildlife tourism, supply of regional products and other new enterprise forms. Part of our work is restocking and reintroduction of wild herbivores and providing local partners with wild-living herds of primitive horse and cattle breeds, via the European Wildlife Bank (EWB), a tool set up by RE.

In order to test and support new economic models based on the approach as described above, RE has established a loan facility, called Rewilding Europe Capital (REC), that provides local enterprises and start-ups with loans for businesses that are not only based on such newly established natural values, but also contribute (in kind or financially) to a more natural landscape. For this purpose RE has signed a contract with the European Investment Bank – under the Natural Capital Financing Facility – to scale up REC’s programme for nature-based enterprises.

As RE considers communication on its evolving vision on this topic and the results from the showcases in the field of vital importance, it deploys a broad spectrum of communication tools, ranging from local education-programmes to tv-documentaries broadcasted worldwide.

Additionally, in order to gather scientific evidence of the ecological and socio-economic benefits connected to rewilding in general – and more specific to natural grazing – RE is involved in the establishment of an independent and dedicated rewilding professorship at the Wageningen University, that will be connected to the scientific review of the management models discussed and tested in the current LIFE-project. Specifically, for the GRAZELIFE project, Rewilding Europe will use the knowledge and experience of Dr. Elisabeth Bakker, associated with the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO).

Having worked in dozens of rewilding projects, in which herbivory is often a key process, RE and its network-partners have extensive practical experience with the challenges of natural grazing within the current European policies, legislation and subsidy-systems. Representatives of the RE-network, gathered in this GRAZELIFE-consortium are therefore well positioned to come up with recommendations to support sustainable grazing-models that benefit Europe’s wider agenda on biodiversity, climate adaptation, fire prevention and other socio-economic issues in rural areas.


Rewilding Europe is providing a large part of the cofunding needed for this LIFE Preparatory Project. Rewilding Europe is supported in this by the Arcadia Fund, the UK based charitable trust of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin that supports charities and scholarly institutions that preserve cultural heritage and the environment.

Universität Leipzig – Associated Beneficiary

Universität Leipzig (ULEI), which has been founded in 1409, today has about 30,000 students more than 400 professors and enables scientists to work in interdisciplinary projects. ULEI has extensive experience in international research projects and projects of the EU structural funds. In the recently finished 7. Research Framework Program of the EU it participated in some 75 projects (including ERC, MCA, and collaborative projects) with an overall EC-contribution of more than 25 million Euro and was coordinator of 5 collaborative research projects. Currently there are some 40 H2020 projects at ULEI. These are listed in Annex 3b.

Julia Rouet-LeducJulia Rouet-Leduc is a PhD student working full time with the GRAZELIFE project at the University of Leipzig and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). The PhD project takes an interdisciplinary approach to explore different types of grazing and the ecosystem services they provide. The research project will use multiple methods to assess the different types of land uses of interest in the GRAZELIFE project and to fill knowledge gaps, especially when it comes to wild and semi-wild grazing systems. The first year of the three-year PhD project will be focused on a literature review, and the rest of the time will be dedicated to bridge the gaps identified in the literature review, for example thanks to semi-structured interviews, field work, etc. The outcome of PhD project will be to make policy recommendations that are especially relevant to the Common Agricultural Policy. Julia has a background in Political Sciences from Sciences Po Paris and a Master in Environmental Sciences and Sustainability from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)

The team of ULEI will be supervised administratively by Dr. Alfons van der Plas, while the overall work will be jointly supervised by Dr. Guy Pe’er and Dr. van der Plas as PIs. The team’s work would be further supported by Dr. Francisco Moreira (CiBio/InBIO, Portugal). Both G. Pe’er and F. Moreira only require reimbursement of travelling costs in order to facilitate their participation in the project, while in return, gaining much knowledge and support of additional research institutes. The team and institutes are described hereafter.

The German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig is one of four research centers funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) with an average annual budget of 8 million EUR (9 million USD) since October 2012. It is jointly hosted by three universities and eight leading non-university research institutions. iDiv currently employs more than 170 scientists and non-scientists, is still growing and well-connected to leading biodiversity specialists from all over the world. In addition to the topical research groups, iDiv has strong central services (outreach office, biodiversity informatics, bioinformatics), a Synthesis Centre (sDiv) fostering theoretical and synthetic thinking by hosting workshops and funding short-term postdoc and sabbatical positions as well as a PhD school (yDiv) educating young scientists in transdisciplinary biodiversity research. Two research groups at iDiv, “Biodiversity Conservation” and “Ecosystem Services”, explicitly address topics of relevance for this project; and members of these groups have been closely collaborating with Rewilding Europe including a ‘synthesis project’ project specifically addressing rewilding topics. Additionally, iDiv members have an exceptional range of collaboration networks, as well as access to datasets, that will be highly beneficial for the project.

The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Germany, was established in 1991 as the first and only centre in the Helmholtz Association of National Research Centres to be exclusively devoted to environmental research in a great variety of fields. It currently employs around 1200 people. Founded in response to the severe pollution prevailing in Central Germany, the UFZ has become a world-wide acknowledged centre of expertise in sustainable land-use and restoration of landscapes, as well as the preservation of biodiversity and natural landscapes. Since its foundation in 1991 the UFZ has participated in more than 160 EC funded projects. UFZ is and was participating in 74 Projects funded within FP7 and Horizon 2020, 10 of them coordinated by UFZ. At present, the UFZ is hosting an ERC advanced grant, 3 Marie Curie Individuals fellowships and is coordinating two ITNs. Over six departments and tens of UFZ members work on topics of relevance to FarmGov, ranging from citizen science and monitoring, through agricultural best practices, to understanding and engaging in science-policy dialogues. At least five departments offer valuable expertise of relevance to the project, namely the Dept. ‘Nature Conservation’, ‘Ecosystem Services’, ‘Community Ecology’, ‘Environmental Politics’ and ‘Environmental Economics’. Examples of relevant projects that are running at or coordinated by UFZ members, include EKLIPSE and ECOPOTENTIAL.

Universidade da Coruña – Associated Beneficiary

UDC is a research and educational institution with leading research groups in many areas including science and technology. UDC has participated and is currently participating in over 125 international research projects, which are mostly co-financed by the European Union (H2020 Programme, previous Framework Programmes, Interreg, COST, NILS, LIFE+, etc.). In addition, our University has coordinated 3 collaborative projects within FP7 and H2020 and coordinates two Starting Grants of the European Research Council. As an entity, UDC has a European Research Projects Office, which provides direct support to project proposals and their financial management. This Office has actively collaborated in the management of 15 Interreg projects.

The research lab led by Jaime Fagúndez at the UDC has a wide experience in conservation management of terrestrial habitats and evaluating the effects of herbivores in natural systems. They have regular meetings with the administration and often communicate with commoners, land owners and stakeholders regarding environmental issues. With their extensive networks in Galicia – because of its tradition with feral herds an interesting region for this GRAZELIFE-project – UDC is well positioned to establish contacts with relevant stakeholders in this area and gather input for recommendations on effective grazing systems.

Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation – Associated Beneficiary

The Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation (till 2015 called New Thracian Gold Foundation) is active in the region of the Eastern Rhodopes in Bulgaria with a strong focus on: promoting and implementing restoration and conservation of natural processes and biodiversity in cooperation with stakeholders; bringing back the variety of wildlife and exploring new ways for people to earn a fair living from the wild; finding new economic drivers to financially support the wilderness areas; stimulating and improving natural grazing and sustainable green tourism in Bulgaria in cooperation with local, regional and national parties.

The RRF team consists of committed wildlife, tourism and communication experts. The Foundation works on the preservation and restoration of wildlife, not only for the sake of wildlife but also for the development of sustainable organic farming and tourism in order to re-utilize the land that has been abandoned in recent years and to generate alternative sources of income for the local inhabitants. Among the major achievements of RRF are the reintroduction of extinct large grazing mammals like wild horses, red deer and wild fallow deer. RRF is associated beneficiary in LIFE RE Vultures project (LIFE14NAT/NL/000901). The Foundation is responsible for actions focused on deer population restoration and supporting local nature friendly business.

Rewilding Ukraine – Associated Beneficiary

Rewilding Ukraine main goals are to support restoration of natural capital in the Danube Delta and foster the nature-based economies. The organisation is building-up a programme to support development of tourism and other economic models that support natural ecosystem. The founders of the organisation were directly involved in implementation of several wetland restoration, natural grazing and community-based projects and consolidate the efforts now to further push for conservation and development of nature-based economies in Ukrainian part of the Danube delta region.

The RU team is well-experienced in the management of EU- and nationally funded projects. RU team members have scientific backgrounds in wetland conservation and restoration, regional development and cross-border cooperation in Europe (including the EU Neighborhood Policy).

Rewilding Ukraine staff are representatives of Ukraine to the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River expert groups for River Basin Management and Flood Protection as well as the Ukrainian national Ramsar Committee, coordinate European Dam Removal Initiative in South-East Europe.

The Rewilding Ukraine team has good experience in coordination of joint activities implemented in cooperation with partners from Romania and republic of Moldova.

Stichting ARK Natuurontwikkeling / ARK Nature – Associated Beneficiary

ARK Nature, established in 1989, is a nature conservation organization that has been pioneering rewilding for over 25 years. ARK Nature’s main focus is rewilding via a bottom-up approach, based on natural processes, linked to economic and social development of the region. ARK is mainly focused on projects in and around the Netherlands, but also elsewhere in Europe.

ARK has almost thirty years of experience in demonstrating how changes in society can provide new opportunities for nature, resulting in wilder landscapes. We are convinced, and have established, that more space for nature improves the quality of life, for people and nature. Robust, spontaneous nature is essential for plants and animals, but also for the economy and people’s well-being.

Large grazers are found to be crucial in the development of the landscapes. ARK is highly experienced in reintroducing native natural herbivores that are key to the landscape forming processes, like European bison and red deer. Also we promote natural grazing with horses and cattle in nature reserves in and around the Netherlands. We have supported and executed ample research into the effects of grazers on biodiversity and on the interaction with visitors in the nature reserve. To create support for herbivory ARK has educated numerous nature managers as well as people living around the nature reserves. This has contributed demonstrably to making natural grazing common practice in the nature reserve.

Until 2007 ARK managed their own herds of cattle and horses. We subsequently established Free Nature which continued as an independent organisation for herd management.

Baltic Environmental Forum Lithuania – Associated Beneficiary

Baltic Environmental Forum Lithuania (BEF-LT) was founded after the finalisation of the technical assistance project in the Baltic States. It was founded in 2003 as a non-governmental, non-profit organisation, with some of the leading environmentalists in the country.

BEF-LT has a long-years’ experience in facilitating a Baltic dialogue and organising trainings and seminars needed for improved professional attitude of its stakeholders on environmental issues. The organisation is dedicated to protection of healthy and clean environment, resource and biodiversity conservation for future generations. The organization’s credo defined as “nature shall be protected not from people but with people”, which illustrates a strong emphasis on communities’ involvement in conservation work as well as importance of addressing social and economic aspects as precondition for ensuring favourable conservation status of protected species / habitats.

Since 2010, BEF-LT is actively dealing with land management issues by preforming habitat restoration, and establishing self-sustaining farming mechanisms to ensure necessary conservation requirements and habitat maintenance.  The team consists of experienced entrepreneurs, biologists and communicators dealing with stakeholders from farm to national political levels. BEF-LT has extensive experience working on biodiversity conservation in agricultural landscapes. It is involved in practical conservation projects as well as scientific and political think-tanks focussed on improving rural development and biodiversity conservation goals. BEF-LT has extensive experience in implementation and managing of projects co-financed by LIFE program.


Grazing for wildfire prevention, ecosystem services,
biodiversity and landscape management

Juan Carlos Muñoz Robredo / Rewilding Europe


Grazing for wildfire prevention, ecosystem services,
biodiversity and landscape management


Reference Code:

3 years.
Start date 01-01-2019.
End date: 31-12-2021

Total budget:
€ 833,325

EU contribution:
€ 499,995

Project focus

On request of the European Commission the LIFE Preparatory Project GRAZELIFE aims on improving implementation possibilities of different grazing models – both by domestic and wild/semi-wild herbivores – to identify the most (cost)effective means to maximise / promote wildfire prevention, climate adaptation, the provision of multiple ecosystem services, landscape and nature conservation, and to minimize human-wildlife conflicts, by maintaining long-term stable and resilient ecosystems.

This Project is co-funded by the LIFE Programme of the European Union.

Coordinating beneficiary:


Description of different grazing models and their (cost)effectiveness for biodiversity, wildfire prevention, reduction of human-wildlife conflicts, climate adaptation and ecosystem services, compared to other land management-systems (including mowing, land abandonment and reforestation), specified for different European regions, and substantiated with case studies.

Build a robust knowledge-base with respect to effectiveness and cost-efficiency of different grazing models.

Analyse and map factors that facilitate, impede or restrict the implementation of the most effective grazing models (financial, social-cultural, political, physical, ecological, administrative, technical, etc.)

Formulating recommendations for the EU to adapt relevant policies, legislation and subsidies in a way that will promote the most effective models for land management and enhance coherence with EU-targets on biodiversity, the restoration agenda, reduction of human-wildlife conflicts and climate adaptation.


Vast areas of Europe have been abandoned in recent decades or will be abandoned in coming decades: current levels of abandonment of land in rural areas in the EU are 0,5-1 mio ha/year. This has severe, and often negative, consequences for the biodiversity and ecosystem service provisioning in the abandoned land.


Land abandonment causes large scale bush-encroachment and spontaneous massive forest regrowth, which can not only lead to the disappearance of small scale cultural and mosaic landscapes, but also to a loss of biodiversity (ca. 50% of the biodiversity on land is directly or indirectly related to herbivory). In addition, this process also has consequences for ecosystem services and disservices. Through the higher availability of fire fuel, bush-encroachment could lead to increased risks of wildfires (especially in the Mediterranean region), a risk which becomes increasingly relevant with climate change.


Traditional measures to stop this process, like mowing or herding sheep, are relatively expensive compared to the natural processes that keep landscapes open, like natural grazing. On top of that, promotion of grazing with traditional livestock – while associated with valuable traditions and cultures – may also often lead to increasing human-wildlife conflicts, for example with large predators. Natural grazers are able to learn to defend themselves, and predation of wild herbivores does not conflict with human interests.


First experiments with natural and semi-natural grazing show that such policies can promote wildlife-based tourism, carbon credits and sales of regional products (e.g. wild meat), and thus create viable business opportunities for landowners and -users. However, this model is financially, legally and politically poorly supported compared to other land management options like mowing or ploughing grasslands, although the latter may have less positive (and in many cases even a negative) impact on EU-targets for biodiversity and climate adaptation/mitigation.


Ecologically there might be challenges as biodiversity targets are mostly defined in terms of species and fixed habitats – instead of complete ecosystems – often leading to conservation regimes that limit the functioning of ecological processes on a larger scale. Allowing spontaneous forest regrowth and herbivory as antagonistic processes in a landscape of shifting mosaics – where all species of grassy and wooded landscapes, and all the gradients in between, find their place but in moving patterns – is a management option that deserves more attention.


Therefore, the following questions need to be addressed/resolved:

  1. Which land management models – with a focus on grazing models – have most beneficial impacts regarding EU targets on biodiversity, climate adaptation, reducing human wildlife conflicts and reducing fire hazards?
  2. Which policies and subsidy-systems promote, or pose barriers, to implementation of these models?

Expected results

Ready-to-use information on practically tested grazing models, differentiated to the regions of Europe, including a practitioners’ guide how to adopt such new models.

Clear and practical recommendations to the European Commission and Member States to facilitate (or at least not hamper/disable) these models via their policies, legal systems and subsidy systems.

As soon as these grazing models are adopted and/or incorporated in European and Member State policies and subsidy systems, a substantial and positive impact can be expected on improved biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and reduction of fire risks in those places (EU-wide) where the models will be applied.

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