The ‘European Learning Network on Functional AgroBiodiversity’ was founded to exchange knowledge and practical experience across country and language borders, between farmers and policymakers, scientists, businesses and NGOs, to enable fast and effective implementation of best practices. This will help to optimize agrobiodiversity benefits, promote sustainable agriculture and will encourage widespread uptake of biodiversity concepts, thereby also enhancing non-agronomic ecosystem services.

Practical Experiences

Improved capacity and skills for land managers to integrate functional agrobiodiversity into their management practices.

Policies and Incentives

Greater impact on agricultural policies at national and European levels to promote the integration of functional agrobiodiversity into policies.

Scientific Research

Improved scientific understanding of the contribution of functional agrobiodiversity to ecosystem services.

The realization that agriculture has to become more sustainable is incorporated in policy instruments from national to global levels. Knowledge on how biodiversity can be mobilized to make agriculture sustainable is growing. Throughout Europe, farmers, researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders are implementing various forms of functional agrobiodiversity. At present, this practical experience is extremely fragmented and barely accessible. The ’European Learning Network on Functional Agrobiodiversity’ (ELN-FAB) aims to change this.

Since early 2009 ECNC has hosted the Secretariat of this European Learning Network. The Network’s activities are guided by a Steering Group consisting of European policymakers and scientists representing the following organizations:

  • European Commission DG Environment;
  • European Landowners’ Organization (ELO);
  • Copa-Cogeca, an umbrella organization for farmers and their cooperatives in the EU;
  • Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, the Netherlands;
  • Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food, Germany;
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Estonia;
  • French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB), France;
  • University of Lancaster, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, UK;
  • Institute of Agro-Food Research and Technology (IRTA), Spain.


The ELN-FAB aims to provide a platform and facility for exchange of knowledge and practical experiences between farmers, policymakers and scientists to enable fast and effective implementation of best practices in order to help to optimize agrobiodiversity benefits and promote sustainable agriculture. The Network focuses on the 27 Member States of the EU, plus Norway and Switzerland.


More specifically, the Network aims to:

  • stimulate dialogue, influence policymaking and support implementation of best practices;
  • generate and exchange knowledge on best and worst practices as well as on mechanisms and practices underlying functional agrobiodiversity;
  • undertake outreach activities;
  • provide advice to farmers, policymakers, scientists and other stakeholders.

Benefits for Stakeholders

The primary stakeholders in the ELN-FAB are those organizations and people in the geographical scope that represent:

  • the land managers (e.g. farmers, landscape and nature managers);
  • the research community dealing with functional agrobiodiversity;
  • the policymakers at all levels from local to international.

The benefits for the respective stakeholder groups include, among others:

  • improved capacity and skills for land managers to integrate functional agrobiodiversity into their management practices through e.g. easily accessible information on best practices, opportunities for dialogue with colleagues elsewhere in Europe, digested research results as basis for adaptive management;
  • collaboration and knowledge exchange among researchers and between researchers and other stakeholders contributes to improved scientific understanding of the contribution of FAB to ecosystem services;
  • enhanced possibilities for researchers to consult colleagues in their research field as well as land managers and policymakers to be in dialogue with;
  • enhanced access to a growing number of field sites that can be used by researchers as living laboratories for the research on FAB;
  • greater impact on agricultural policies at national and European levels because of the large pool of evidence, practice and multipliers that jointly promote the integration of FAB in agricultural policies (notably, the opportunity to influence the CAP reform in 2013);
  • greater opportunity for decision makers in agriculture to access knowledge and advice with regard to their policy field.

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Implementation structure

ECNC hosts the Secretariat of the European Learning Network. ECNC and AB-IPO are partners within this project and complement each other to ensure successful realisation of the project.

The implementation structure of ELN-FAB is provided below.

Time frame 

The secretariat of the European Learning Network has been active since 1 January 2009. The project timeframe has been extended until the end of 2014.


  • ECNC-European Centre for Nature Conservation (coordination)
  • DIVERSITAS agroBIODIVERSITY International Project Office, Wageningen University, the Netherlands


The ELN-FAB is financially supported by:

  • The European Commission LIFE+ NGO programme;
  • Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, the Netherlands;
  • Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), Switzerland;
  • Flemish Land Agency (VLM), Belgium;
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Estonia;
  • European Environment Agency (EEA).

Fundraising continues in order to expand the Network in the long term.


Since the secretariat was established it has made sure that the European Learning Network on Functional AgroBiodiversity functions properly in providing the different stakeholders with a means to share knowledge and experience. Key products focus on generating knowledge and communication between the stakeholders. These include:

  • a multi-annual work programme for the ELN-FAB setting out the future direction and priorities;
  • the ELN-FAB website, providing information on functional agrobiodiversity, examples of good practices from all over Europe, news and more;
  • a register of projects throughout Europe covering the subject of functional agrobiodiversity;
  • annual ELN-FAB European seminars bringing together representatives of the various target groups from several countries, and collecting and exchanging experience;
  • communication and outreach activities, such as leaflets, a quarterly newsletter (see below) and presentations at events;
  • a series of awareness-raising workshops about FAB throughout Europe to form working partnerships;
  • a handbook for FAB to help the stakeholders to strengthen the role of FAB in their operations;
  • a directory of stakeholder groups on European and national levels and other possible intermediaries who could actively participate in the project.

ELN-FAB is involved in various research projects by providing a dissemination platform and bringing in a European pool of expertise.

  • SUSTAIN – Soil Functional Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a Transdisciplinary Approach, funded by the ERA-NET SNOWMAN under the 6th Framework Program of the EU (http://www.snowmannetwork.com/main.asp?id=110)
  • EcoFinders – Ecological Function and Biodiversity Indicators in European Soils, funded by the 7th Framework Program of the EU (http://ecofinders.dmu.dk)
  • Stakeholder Advisory Board of the QUESSA project – Quantification of ecological services for sustainable agriculture
  • BiodiversityKnowledge project (http://www.biodiversityknowledge.eu)