Agricultural land use & nature-friendly farming

Find out about the nature-friendly farming & food systems we're working towards with farmers.

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Agricultural land use

Rolling hills, stretches of woodland and green fields buzzing with life. The countryside may seem like a natural space, but it’s heavily shaped by humans. We’re pushing for change to make sure people and wildlife can exist in harmony. 

Achieving a nature-friendly farming system

Intensive farming methods, which focus on producing as much food as quickly and cheaply as possible, are harmful to nature. In fact, it has been identified as one of the biggest drivers of nature’s decline. By working closely with farmers, crofters and land managers, we know it’s possible for nature and sustainable food production to coexist in harmony. But it won’t happen without a food and farming system that supports farmers, crofters and land managers.  

Changes must also go beyond farming. All businesses must do more to ensure their supply chains are nature friendly. Everyone must be actively engaged in what we consume, and demand change to ensure that nature-friendly food choices are accessible and affordable for all. 

Supporting farmers and crofters

We have long fought for policies that reward farmers, crofters and other land managers for protecting nature. Since the Second World War, farming policies have mostly focused on increasing food production, and they have been very successful – at nature’s expense. Changes in farming have driven declines in wildlife, depleted soils, damaged bodies of water, polluted the air and damaged the climate. This is also bad for farming and food-production. The UK is now one of the most nature-depleted nations in the world and this also has a detrimental impact on farming and food security.  

A growing number of farmers and crofters are practicing nature-friendly farming and would like to do more, but incentives through farm subsidy systems have done too little to support them. It’s vital that governments across the UK countries develop ambitious, effective and well-funded environmental land management schemes, that reward farmers and crofters for the action they can take, like recovering species populations, improving water quality, protecting carbon stocks and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

We need schemes that reward methods of food production that work with nature and give it more space to thrive. That's why we created Fair to Nature, the UK's only certification scheme with a focus on biodiversity. Farmers who are a part of the scheme must commit to managing at least 10% of their land for nature. In return, their products are certified Fair to Nature, letting consumers know they're making a nature-friendly choice. 

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Advice for farmers

Through our partnership Farm Wildlife, we offer management advice for farmers looking to make their systems and practices as nature-friendly as possible. We also support the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) as a partner organisation. NFFN is led by farmers around the UK who believe in the power of sustainable farming and are pushing for policy changes that support nature-friendly methods. They also provide practical management advice for farming that puts nature and climate first in their regular reports. You can read the latest one on the NFFN website here.   

Protecting our uplands

The uplands are wild and remote landscapes, where a rich mix of internationally important habitats and species is found. Usually separated from our major towns and cities, they are also home to dispersed rural communities.

Throughout the UK, the uplands store vast amounts of carbon (especially in peat) and play an important role in storing drinking water and moderating the downstream flow of water.  Throughout the UK, millions of people spend their leisure time in upland areas, particularly those protected as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, making the uplands vital to the physical and mental well-being of a large number of people.

Despite their importance, these areas are often in poor condition. Working with others, we look to improve the way land is used, advocating for policies that support nature-friendly land use and management. 

Safeguarding our freshwater

Over 200,000 streams, rivers, lakes, groundwater stores, ponds and wetlands make up the UK’s freshwater network. These important habitats are home to a diverse collection of wildlife including voles, otters, herons, trout and beavers. They also act as a lifeline for many migratory and breeding bird species including curlew and geese. 

Sadly, our freshwater is at risk – facing complex challenges from all sides including persistent and widespread pollution, water extraction and climate change, especially prolonged periods of drought. Through our work, the RSPB advocates for better protection and management of the freshwater environment, supported by robust monitoring, regulation and enforcement, to deliver for both nature and people.

A view of a river leading to a waterfall, with patchy green grassland either side.

Restoring our woodlands and trees

Woodlands and landscapes rich in trees are of vital importance for climate, nature and people. Managed sustainably, they provide habitats for wildlife, help regulate our air and water, and provide a source of raw materials. We also know that trees, especially mature ones, are a crucial carbon store. To make the most of their potential, we need policies that protect, restore and reconnect our woodland habitats, increasing biodiversity in the process. The types of trees, the location and how woods are managed are all important for wildlife. The right strategic land use approach, with associated funding mechanisms, will be essential to deliver 'the right tree in the right place'. 

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