Landscape configurational heterogeneity by small-scale agriculture, not crop diversity, maintains pollinators and plant reproduction in western Europe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Agricultural intensification is one of the main causes for the current biodiversity crisis. While reversing habitat loss on agricultural land is challenging, increasing the farmland configurational heterogeneity (higher field border density) and farmland compositional heterogeneity (higher crop diversity) has been proposed to counteract some habitat loss. Here, we tested whether increased farmland configurational and compositional heterogeneity promote wild pollinators and plant reproduction in 229 landscapes located in four major western European agricultural regions. High-field border density consistently increased wild bee abundance and seed set of radish (Raphanus sativus), probably through enhanced connectivity. In particular, we demonstrate the importance of crop-crop borders for pollinator movement as an additional experiment showed higher transfer of a pollen analogue along crop-crop borders than across fields or along semi-natural crop borders. By contrast, high crop diversity reduced bee abundance, probably due to an increase of crop types with particularly intensive management. This highlights the importance of crop identity when higher crop diversity is promoted. Our results show that small-scale agricultural systems can boost pollinators and plant reproduction. Agri-environmental policies should therefore aim to halt and reverse the current trend of increasing field sizes and to reduce the amount of crop types with particularly intensive management.


  • Annika L. Hass
  • Urs G. Kormann
  • Teja Tscharntke
  • Yann Clough
  • Aliette Bosem Baillod
  • Clélia Sirami
  • Lenore Fahrig
  • Jean Louis Martin
  • Jacques Baudry
  • Colette Bertrand
  • Jordi Bosch
  • Lluís Brotons
  • Françoise Bure
  • Romain Georges
  • David Giralt
  • María Marcos-García
  • Antonio Ricarte
  • Gavin Siriwardena
  • Péter Batáry
External organisations
  • University of Göttingen
  • Oregon State University
  • Carleton University
  • British Trust for Ornithology
  • Paul Valéry University of Montpellier
  • INRA National Institute of Agricultural Research
  • Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry (CERAF)
  • CSIC Spanish National Research Council
  • The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)
  • Forest Technology Centre of Catalonia
  • University of Alicante
  • MTA Centre for Ecological Research
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use


  • Bee, Compositional heterogeneity, Field size, Hoverfly, Landscape heterogeneity, Pollen transfer
Original languageEnglish
Article number20172242
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1872
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Feb 14
Publication categoryResearch