RHEA - natural Resources Human Environment & Agronomy
RHEA is a scientific research centre specialized in rural development and ecosystem management. In the centre of Belgium and Europe, RHEA and its high-qualified researcher's team, lead by Alain Peeters, carries out research and consultancy projects in the fields of agriculture, biodiversity, environment and sustainable development.
Ecosystem services (ES) are the humans benefits derived from ecosystems. Since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), many initiatives were taken to further develop this concept theoretically and to make it operational in daily policy. In Belgium, there is an urgent need to gain more insight into local ES.
The history and activities of the FAO/CIHEAM Research and Development Network on Pasture and Fodder Crops
The network has been created in 1978. It aims at exchanging scientific and technical information, managing working groups on targeted research activities that lead to the development of common methodologies and results, development of research projects, publications, organization of technical stays and training of researchers. It includes two sub-networks: the ‘Mountain Pastures sub-network’ and the ‘Mediterranean Forage Resources subnetwork’. In 2010, it is coordinated by a network coordinator (Prof. Dr Alain Peeters. RHEA, Gentinnes, Belgium.
Importance, evolution, environmental impact and future challenges of grasslands and grassland-based systems in Europe
The importance and the diversity of grasslands and grassland-based systems are illustrated. Their multiple functions and values are highlighted. The main trends of the evolution of the systems in the last half-century are summarized including the effect of the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union. Grasslands are compared with annual forage crops for forage production potential and impact on the environment. New challenges are analyzed especially in relation to agro-fuel production.
The sustainability of farming systems is currently under debate. Nowadays, agriculture has become not only a food provider but also a provider of goods and services for tourism, leisure, landscape management, nature conservation, etc. Agricultural management practices have a key impact on biodiversity conservation, a serious decline of many plant and animal species which are traditionally linked to agricultural areas has been demonstrated. Although not all impacts are negative, a need to identify and monitor pressures on biodiversity coming from agriculture has been identified.