Indicator landscape

Agricultural area

Approximately a quarter of Switzerland's land area consists of agricultural land, and this area is slowly decreasing. As the area decreases, the remaining agricultural land is often used more intensively. This puts pressure on animals and plants that live on agricultural land that is extensively farmed. When agricultural land is built over, it also also loses its ecological functions (see also 'Sealed area' indicator). When agricultural land is abandoned, it is often reforested, which changes the landscape.

Assessment of the state
poor poor
Assessment of the trend
negative negative
Agricultural area 2013/18: 949.1 Agricultural area 2004/09: 967.8 Agricultural area 1992/97: 990.7 Agricultural area 1979/85: 1023.3

Data for the graph: Excel
Source: FOEN: Swiss Landscape Monitoring Network (LABES)
Agricultural area as % of total region Southern Alps: 3.5 Agricultural area as % of total region Western Central Alps: 5.2 Agricultural area as % of total region Eastern Central Alps: 5.4 Agricultural area as % of total region Northern Alps: 17.3 Agricultural area as % of total region Central Plateau: 48.3 Agricultural area as % of total region Jura: 32.8 Agricultural area as % of total region Switzerland: 23

Data for the graph: Excel
Source: Federal Office for the Environment: Swiss Landscape Monitoring Network

The area used for agriculture is shrinking. Since statistics were first recorded in 1985 to the most recent in 2018, the annual decline – excluding Alpine farming areas – has fluctuated between 0.2 and 0.3 per cent. In absolute terms, this is a decline of 742 square kilometres over the 33 years. Agricultural land excluding summering areas represented 23 per cent of the total land area in 2018.

The slowest decrease is in the Jura, where less agricultural land is giving way to settlement growth. It is most rapid on the southern flank of the Alps, where a change in land use for economic reasons is widespread. The largest area of agricultural land in absolute terms is being lost on the Swiss Plateau.

International comparison

The indicator is listed as 'Land-use change' in the European Union (EU) agri-environmental indicators. Similar trends can be observed in all of the longer-term EU member countries; in the member countries that have joined the EU more recently there is no clear consistent trend.


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 under indicator E2 (Size of areas of defined use) in Biodiversity Monitoring Switzerland. The addition of the farm structure survey, which includes soil use, has improved information on agriculture.

Basis for assessment of the trend
Targeted trend Initial value Final value Variation in % Observed trend Assessment
Stabilisation 1979/85 2013/18 -7.25% Decrease negative
Last updated on: 22.03.2023

Further information




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