Nature conservation versus agriculture in the light of socio-economic changes over the last half-century–Case study from a Hungarian national park
Effectiveness of nature conservation is under the influence of agriculture.
Agricultural subsidies have contradictory effects on protected areas.
CAP reform is necessary to promote well-functioning cross-sectoral cooperation.
Farmers’ environmental awareness needs to be improved.
National parks and other forms of protection ensure the natural values in the European Union. However, a significant part of protected areas is under agricultural cultivation, and the two sectors have been kind of opponents to each other for a long time. In the last 50 years, because of various socio-economic changes, the European and Hungarian agricultural policies had opposing concepts and goals, even related to protected areas. In our work, we identified the policy and institutional changes, examined their effects, and the conflicts that accompanied them by exploring the area of Kiskunság National Park (KNP) in Hungary. Based on literature and document review, in-depth interviews, GIS, and statistical analysis, we present the main reasons and symptoms of the two sectors’ counter-interest. We found that farming objectives and agricultural subsidies have an essential influence on nature conservation. In contrast, the KNP as an institution has less and less control over the landscape management of conservation areas. The historical turning points have fundamental impacts on the behavior of local actors. The changing macro-conditions cause unbalanced relations between nature conservation and agriculture, which could endanger valuable close-to-nature landscapes. We conclude that the coexistence of agricultural production and nature conservation can be improved, but it will require the equal treatment and independence of sectors, comprehensive policy coordination, complex spatial planning, and paradigmatic change in support to agricultural communities and conservationists. The linkages between these two policy areas will increasingly determine sustainable land use management in the future, thus protecting natural values not just in Hungary, but in the EU and other countries too.