Land consolidation and the hedgerow collapse: Guilty or scapegoat?
Land consolidation has been part of major agricultural reforms worldwide, aiming at rationalizing land use by reallocating land property. It may, however, have unintended environmental consequences. The French consolidation program (“remembrement”) has concentrated accusations on the massive hedgerow downfall in the countryside in the second half of the twentieth century. Geographers yet debate its actual responsibility. We provide the first causal inference study on the impact of land consolidation on hedgerows in farmland. Our difference-in-difference design under staggered treatment unveils that consolidated municipalities in Basse-Normandie (France) experienced an additional hedgerow reduction of about 15 meters per hectare. While significant, it only represents a quarter of the total decline, challenging the common narrative of land consolidation as France’s primary cause of hedgerow decrease. Our results suggest considering the hedgerows’ downfall first as the sum of individual initiatives in the context of agricultural transformation rather than the consequence of a State-organized operation.