Globally, the intensification of agricultural land use is considered the leading threat to biodiversity. Previous studies on the impacts of land-use intensity on biodiversity have only looked at single or small groups of organisms. However, individual species can vary greatly in how they respond to different land uses, meaning that the overall impact on biodiversity is often not clear.
Variation in land-use intensity between years – as here in the Schwäbische Alb – leads to higher biodiversity.
Photo: Ilka Mai, Botanischer Garten der Universität Potsdam
A research study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), led by the Professors Eric Allan and Markus Fischer at the University of Bern, shows that farmers can help protect grassland biodiversity by varying management intensity over time. This reduces some of the negative effects of intensive land use, particularly for rare species.
New index measures ecosystem biodiversity
A team of 58 scientists, from both Switzerland and Germany, assembled a uniquely comprehensive dataset on the biodiversity of up to 49 groups of organisms, including groups of bacteria, fungi, plants and animals. They used data from study sites that they had established in 150 grasslands in three regions of Germany, the Biodiversity Exploratories, which varied from extensively managed and lightly grazed to intensively grazed or mown grasslands with high fertilizer input.
The scientists used these data to compile a novel index of «multidiversity», which measures total ecosystem biodiversity. «The study showed that overall biodiversity declined very strongly with increasing land-use intensity and that this was particularly true for rarer species», explains Eric Allan of the Institute of Plant Sciences at the University of Bern. Plants, grasshoppers and butterflies declined most strongly.
According to Eric Allan, the results provide very strong evidence for the importance of extensively managed grasslands for nature conservation: «This new index provides a single measure of biodiversity for an ecosystem and should make it easier to assess the effects of conservation measures or restoration efforts on biodiversity.»
Variation in land-use intensity as new strategy
Interestingly, the scientists also found biodiversity to be much higher in grasslands in which land-use intensity had varied over the last few years. «This suggests that varying management intensity over time could be a novel strategy to maintain biodiversity in grasslands, for instance by altering the number of livestock or the frequency of mowing between years», explains Markus Fischer.
The rare species in the study benefited particularly from changing land use over time: At intermediate land-use intensity, the biodiversity of the rarer species was almost twice as high when land-use intensity varied between years. «This result shows that farmers could do a lot for biodiversity conservation simply by varying the intensity of their land-use between years, as long as the mean intensity of management does not get too high», says Eric Allan.Publication details:
Nathalie Matter | Universität Bern
Not of Divided Mind
19.01.2017 | Hertie-Institut für klinische Hirnforschung (HIH)
CRISPR meets single-cell sequencing in new screening method
19.01.2017 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
19.01.2017 | Life Sciences
19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy