Removal of woody vegetation from uncultivated field margins is insufficient to promote non-woody vascular plant diversity

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Abstract

Uncultivated field margins are one of the most frequent non-crop habitat types in contemporary, highintensity
agricultural landscapes and may therefore be important for the persistence of many farmland
species. Managing field margins in a way that preserves, and preferably enhances, their value for
biodiversity is therefore important. In the present study, we evaluate how the flora of uncultivated field
margins is affected by the removal of woody vegetation as prescribed by an agri-environment scheme
(AES) under the Swedish Rural Development Program 2007–2013. We used generalized linear mixed
models and detrended correspondence analysis to compare the flora of open (cleared) and more
overgrown field margins, located within agricultural landscapes of different complexity, in Scania, S.
Sweden. As expected, there was a negative effect of management on woody species. However, the local
(1m2) and transect (100 m) level richness of non-woody species did not differ significantly between
management categories, and there were no differences in the within-transect variability of non-woody
species (local b diversity) or the species composition (0.25m2 plots) in managed and unmanaged field
margins. Our results show that the removal of woody vegetation from uncultivated field margins, as
prescribed by the evaluated AES, is unlikely to benefit non-woody plant species. The species composition
of the sampled field margins suggests that inclusion of appropriate field layer management alone is
unlikely to be sufficient to improve habitat conditions for grassland species unless measures are taken to
counteract eutrophication. Landscape type, on the other hand, influenced both the total richness and the
richness of each of the species groups that were considered to be of particular conservation value in the
present study: field margins in the complex agricultural landscapes were significantly richer than those
in the simple ones. Maintaining non-crop habitat at the landscape scale is likely to be a necessary first
step in the prevention of a further decline of farmland plants.

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Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Physical Geography
  • Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
  • Biological Sciences
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems & Environment
Volume201
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes