Restoring unproductive areas of olive groves increases their biodiversity

Restoring unproductive areas with native plant species enhances landscape complexity, promotes the recovery of ecosystem services, and contributes to reducing production costs.

Olivares Vivos, developed by SEO/BirdLife, has pioneered an agricultural model that seamlessly integrates biodiversity restoration with increased profit margins for olive growers—two pivotal elements for securing the future of agriculture. These crucial aspects are emphasized on World Olive Tree Day, observed on November 26.

The agri-environmental scheme at the core of Olivares Vivos, encompassing judicious and sustainable herbaceous cover management, installation of fauna-supporting elements, and restoration of unproductive areas, has proven the agricultural sector’s potential to address climate and biodiversity crises. Remarkably, these positive impacts are achieved without extensive interventions. Specifically, focusing on restoring unproductive areas, interventions covering less than 1% of the total farm area have proven sufficient to significantly enhance the diversity and abundance of flora and fauna.

“The restoration of natural vegetation in unproductive areas of the olive grove—such as roadsides, stubble fields, gullies, or boundaries—is pivotal for biodiversity recovery. These areas served as ecological compensation zones, maintaining optimal levels of flora and fauna abundance and diversity within the olive grove. Additionally, they harbored populations of beneficial insects that naturally controlled pests and contributed to preventing soil fertility loss. Therefore, consideration of these compensation areas is crucial in the planning of new olive grove plantations. It is imperative to recognize that an agri-food product associated with biodiversity loss cannot be deemed sustainable,” asserts José Eugenio Gutiérrez, director of LIFE Olivares Vivos+ and SEO/BirdLife delegate in Andalusia.

The Advantages of Engaging in Nature-Friendly Agriculture

Successful farming relies on the health of agrosystems and biodiversity. The Olivares Vivos model fortifies this connection to cultivate top-tier Extra Virgin Olive Oils (EVOO) in high-quality olive groves. This method of farming not only enhances the quality of the produce but also positively impacts the financial standing of farmers, driven by three key factors.

Firstly, the incorporation of the Olivares Vivos seal into the international agri-food market and the emphasis on biodiversity as a market value play a pivotal role. The Olivares Vivos certification stands out as the sole European accreditation guaranteeing a tangible and proven restoration of biodiversity at the source of EVOOs. Presently, 36 EVOO brands proudly bear this seal, distinguished by a robust scientific foundation.

Moreover, the Olivares Vivos model, with its commitment to biodiversity recovery and ecosystem services, results in a significant reduction in the need for agricultural inputs. Studies indicate potential savings of up to 22%, providing a substantial economic benefit to farmers. Additionally, prioritizing nature-friendly practices aligns with the evolving objectives of European agricultural policies, notably the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) focusing on environmental and biodiversity goals.

Recent developments, such as the agreement on the Nature Restoration Act, further underscore the importance of reversing biodiversity loss in Europe. Countries are now compelled to implement measures that enhance agricultural ecosystems. The Olivares Vivos model not only paves the way for this transformation in olive groves but also sets a precedent for other crops, contributing to the strengthening of European agriculture while simultaneously combating biodiversity loss.

LIFE Olivares Vivos+

Since 2015, and with the funding of two LIFE projects, Olivares Vivos has developed and implemented this innovative olive growing model born from the consensus between farmers, scientists and conservationists. Now, through the LIFE Olivares Vivos+ (2021-2026), work is being done to accelerate the dissemination of the model throughout the main European olive-growing regions, to extend it to other products (such as table olives) and to transfer it to other crops; the latter is currently being achieved through the Secanos Vivos project. Work is also being carried out to adapt the model to the olive cooperative sector through the Cooperalive Operational Group and the effect of herbaceous covers on olive groves is being studied with the Coverolive Operational Group.

LIFE Olivares Vivos+ is developed by SEO/BirdLife as coordinating partner and the Provincial Council of Jaén, the University of Jaén, the Experimental Station of Arid Zones of the Spanish National Research Council (EEZA-CSIC), the University of Évora, the agricultural and forestry cooperative DREAm-Italia, the Helena Agricultural Organisation and Juan Vilar Consultores Estratégicos. The project is financed by the LIFE programme of the European Commission and is also co-financed by the Diputación de Jaén and the Consejería de Agricultura, Ganadería, Pesca y Desarrollo Sostenible of the Junta de Andalucía, as well as with the financial support of the Interprofesional del Aceite de Oliva Español, the Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha and the Caja Rural de Jaén.




La Sociedad Española de Ornitología es la entidad conservacionista decana de España. Desde 1954, sigue teniendo como misión conservar la biodiversidad, con la participación e implicación de la sociedad, siempre con las aves como bandera.

SEO/BirdLife es la representante en España de BirdLife International, una federación que agrupa a las asociaciones dedicadas a la conservación de las aves y sus hábitats en todo el mundo, con representación en más de 100 países y más de 13 millones de socios.

Es el socio coordinador del LIFE Olivares Vivos+.