Increasing crop heterogeneity enhances multitrophic diversity across agricultural regions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Agricultural landscape homogenization has detrimental effects on biodiversity and key ecosystem services. Increasing agricultural landscape heterogeneity by increasing seminatural cover can help to mitigate biodiversity loss. However, the amount of seminatural cover is generally low and difficult to increase in many intensively managed agricultural landscapes. We hypothesized that increasing the heterogeneity of the crop mosaic itself (hereafter “crop heterogeneity”) can also have positive effects on biodiversity. In 8 contrasting regions of Europe and North America, we selected 435 landscapes along independent gradients of crop diversity and mean field size. Within each landscape, we selected 3 sampling sites in 1, 2, or 3 crop types. We sampled 7 taxa (plants, bees, butterflies, hoverflies, carabids, spiders, and birds) and calculated a synthetic index of multitrophic diversity at the landscape level. Increasing crop heterogeneity was more beneficial for multitrophic diversity than increasing seminatural cover. For instance, the effect of decreasing mean field size from 5 to 2.8 ha was as strong as the effect of increasing seminatural cover from 0.5 to 11%. Decreasing mean field size benefited multitrophic diversity even in the absence of seminatural vegetation between fields. Increasing the number of crop types sampled had a positive effect on landscape-level multitrophic diversity. However, the effect of increasing crop diversity in the landscape surrounding fields sampled depended on the amount of seminatural cover. Our study provides large-scale, multitrophic, cross-regional evidence that increasing crop heterogeneity can be an effective way to increase biodiversity in agricultural landscapes without taking land out of agricultural production.


  • Clélia Sirami
  • Nicolas Gross
  • Aliette Bosem Baillod
  • Colette Bertrand
  • Annika Hass
  • Laura Henckel
  • Paul Miguet
  • Carole Vuillot
  • Audrey Alignier
  • Jude Girard
  • Péter Batáry
  • Cyrille Violle
  • David Giralt
  • Gerard Bota
  • Isabelle Badenhausser
  • Gaëtan Lefebvre
  • Bertrand Gauffre
  • Aude Vialatte
  • François Calatayud
  • Assu Gil-Tena
  • Lutz Tischendorf
  • Scott Mitchell
  • Kathryn Lindsay
  • Romain Georges
  • Samuel Hilaire
  • Jordi Recasens
  • Xavier Oriol Solé-Senan
  • Irene Robleño
  • Jordi Bosch
  • Jose Antonio Barrientos
  • Antonio Ricarte
  • Maria Ángeles Marcos-Garcia
  • Jesús Miñano
  • Raphaël Mathevet
  • Annick Gibon
  • Jacques Baudry
  • Gérard Balent
  • Brigitte Poulin
  • Françoise Burel
  • Teja Tscharntke
  • Vincent Bretagnolle
  • Gavin Siriwardena
  • Annie Ouin
  • Lluis Brotons
  • Jean Louis Martin
  • Lenore Fahrig
External organisations
  • University of Montpellier
  • University of Toulouse
  • INRA National Institute of Agricultural Research
  • Rey Juan Carlos University
  • University of Göttingen
  • Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL Switzerland)
  • Agrocampus Ouest
  • University of Paris-Saclay
  • University of Rennes I
  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå
  • Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University
  • Carleton University
  • Institute of Ecology and Botany, HAS
  • Forest Technology Centre of Catalonia
  • Chizé Centre for Biological Studies
  • Tour du Valat
  • LTSER Zone Atelier Plaine et Val de Sèvre
  • University of Lleida
  • Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry (CERAF)
  • Autonomous University of Barcelona
  • University of Alicante
  • University of Murcia
  • British Trust for Ornithology
  • CSIC Spanish National Research Council
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Agricultural Science


  • Biodiversity, Complementation, Crop mosaic, Farmland, Landscape, Multitaxa
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16442-16447
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Aug 13
Publication categoryResearch

Related activities

Clough, Y. (Interviewee)
2019 Aug 20

Activity: OtherMedia participation

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