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
New findings help to better calculate the oceans’ contribution to climate regulation
14.11.2018 | Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH
How algae and carbon fibers could sustainably reduce the athmospheric carbon dioxide concentration
14.11.2018 | Technische Universität München
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
14.11.2018 | Materials Sciences
14.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
14.11.2018 | Life Sciences