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
Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy