Agriculturally used land comprises around a quarter of Switzerland‘s land area, subject to a very slight downward trend. When it is lost, the remaining agricultural land is used more intensively. This puts pressure on animals and plants that live in areas that are used extensively for agriculture. When agricultural land is built over, it also loses its ecological functions (see also the "Soil sealing" indicator).When agricultural land is abandoned, it is often reforested, which changes the landscape.
Between 2003 and 2013, the agricultural area in Switzerland decreased by about 11,821 hectares, due to urbanisation and discontinued agricultural use for economic reasons. This corresponds to a relative decrease of 4.2%, which is assessed as negative, since food is produced more intensively on a smaller area, while urbanisation removes soil for production forever.
The decrease affects all regions of Switzerland to the same extent. In absolute terms, most of the lost agricultural area is in the Central Plateau. In relative terms, the loss of agricultural area in the Alps is particularly high, since there is not very much agriculturally used land in these regions. This trend will probably continue.
This indicator is known as the “land use change“ indicator in the European Union (EU). Similar trends can be observed in all of the longtime EU countries, while the trends in the new EU countries are not consistent.
Two data sources were used to calculate changes in agricultural area, i.e. (a) land-use statistics for agricultural areas and (b) the farm structure survey (Federal Statistical Office and Federal Office for Agriculture) for agricultural areas.
Changes in agricultural area (section (a) above) are recorded as part of indicator E2 (Size of areas of defined use) of "Biodiversity Monitoring in Switzerland". Enhanced agricultural information has resulted from the addition of the farm structure survey, as soil use is included.