Agroscope, Institute for Plant Production Sciences IPS, 1260 Nyon, Switzerland

Environmental indicators – Interface between economy and ecology

Experts carried out a survey using the Delphi method in order to obtain reliable instruments for monitoring the environmental consequences of national legislation and, at the same time, to determine the impact and effectiveness of the applicable regulations. The survey included both the active and inanimate environment (soil, water, air, bio-diversity and landscape). The first phase entailed an assessment of the suitability of 453 indicators for environmental monitoring. A further stage involved an investigation of the effects of Swiss agricultural legislation on selected, relevant indicators. There are reliable, conclusive indicators in all the environmental sectors covered by the survey with which the environmental impact of agripolitical measures can be monitored. An assessment of the suitability of the individual indicators permits an ideal set to be selected from among all those possible. The investigation of the environmental impact of Swiss agripolitical measures revealed no significantly negative effects. As a rule, regulations which encourage extension of agricultural activities have a favourable impact on both the active and inanimate environment, as do elements of ecological compensation. The environmental impacts of structural changes in agriculture (increase in average parcel area, increase in monocultures, etc.) were not shown by the survey to be either clearly negative or positive. However, the structural changes do tend to generate negative impacts.

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