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PLoS One. 2018 Aug 1;13(8):e0200438. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200438. eCollection 2018.

Landscape heterogeneity rather than crop diversity mediates bird diversity in agricultural landscapes.

Author information

1
Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology, Biocenter, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany.

Abstract

Crop diversification has been proposed as farm management tool that could mitigate the externalities of conventional farming while reducing productivity-biodiversity trade-offs. Yet evidence for the acclaimed biodiversity benefits of landscape-level crop diversity is ambiguous. Effects may strongly depend on spatial scale and the level of landscape heterogeneity (e.g. overall habitat diversity). At the same time, contrasting within-taxon responses obscure benefits to specific functional groups (i.e. species with shared characteristics or requirements) if studied at the community level. The objectives of this study were to 1) disentangle the relative effects of crop diversity and landscape heterogeneity on avian species richness across five spatial scales ranging from 250 to 3000 m radii around focal winter wheat fields; and 2) assess whether functional groups (feeding guild, conservation status, habitat preference, nesting behaviour) determine the strength and direction of responses to crop diversity and landscape heterogeneity. In central Germany, 14 landscapes were selected along independent gradients of crop diversity (annual arable crops) and landscape heterogeneity. Bird species richness in each landscape was estimated using four point counts throughout the breeding season. We found no effects of landscape-level crop diversity on bird richness and functional groups. Instead, landscape heterogeneity was strongly associated with increased total bird richness across all spatial scales. In particular, insect-feeding and non-farmland birds were favoured in heterogeneous landscapes, as were species not classified as endangered or vulnerable on the regional Red List. Crop-nesting farmland birds, however, were less species-rich in these landscapes. Accordingly, crop diversification may be less suitable for conserving avian diversity and associated ecosystem services (e.g. biological pest control), although confounding interactions with management intensity need yet to be confirmed. In contrast, enhancement of landscape heterogeneity by increasing perennial habitat diversity, reducing field sizes and the amount of cropland has the potential to benefit overall bird richness. Specialist farmland birds, however, may require more targeted management approaches.

PMID:
30067851
PMCID:
PMC6070203
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0200438
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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