Land-use history impacts functional diversity across multiple trophic groups

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Land-use change is a major driver of biodiversity loss worldwide. Although biodiversity often shows a delayed response to land-use change, previous studies have typically focused on a narrow range of current landscape factors and have largely ignored the role of land-use history in shaping plant and animal communities and their functional characteristics. Here, we used a unique database of 220,000 land-use records to investigate how 20-y of land-use changes have affected functional diversity across multiple trophic groups (primary producers, mutualists, herbivores, invertebrate predators, and vertebrate predators) in 75 grassland fields with a broad range of land-use histories. The effects of land-use history on multitrophic trait diversity were as strong as other drivers known to impact biodiversity, e.g., grassland management and current landscape composition. The diversity of animal mobility and resourceacquisition traits was lower in landscapes where much of the land had been historically converted from grassland to crop. In contrast, functional biodiversity was higher in landscapes containing old permanent grasslands, most likely because they offer a stable and high-quality habitat refuge for species with low mobility and specialized feeding niches. Our study shows that grassland-to-crop conversion has long-lasting impacts on the functional biodiversity of agricultural ecosystems. Accordingly, land-use legacy effects must be considered in conservation programs aiming to protect agricultural biodiversity. In particular, the retention of permanent grassland sanctuaries within intensive landscapes may offset ecological debts.


  • Gaëtane Le Provost
  • Isabelle Badenhausser
  • Yoann Le Bagousse-Pinguet
  • Yann Clough
  • Laura Henckel
  • Cyrille Violle
  • Vincent Bretagnolle
  • Marilyn Roncoroni
  • Peter Manning
  • Nicolas Gross
External organisations
  • Chizé Centre for Biological Studies
  • Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung
  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • University of Montpellier
  • University of Auvergne
  • University of La Rochelle
  • Institut national de recherche pour l'agriculture, l'alimentation et l'environnement (INRAE)
  • Aix-Marseille University
  • University of Avignon
  • Paul Valéry University of Montpellier
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use


  • Agricultural ecosystems, Biodiversity loss, Functional diversity, Grasslands, Land-use changes
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1573-1579
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication categoryResearch