Farmlands with smaller crop fields have higher within-field biodiversity.

Fahrig, L., Girard, J., Duro, D., Pasher, J., Smith, A., Javorek, S.K., King, D., Lindsay, K.F., Mitchell, S.W., and Tischendorf, L. (2015). "Farmlands with smaller crop fields have higher within-field biodiversity.", Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 200, pp. 219-234. doi : 10.1016/j.agee.2014.11.018  Access to full text


Simple rules for landscape management seem elusive because different species and species groups are associated with different land cover types; a change in landscape structure that increases diversity of one group may reduce diversity of another. On the other hand, if simple landscape–biodiversity relationships do exist despite this complexity, they would have great practical benefit to conservation management. With these considerations in mind, we tested for consistent relationships between landscape heterogeneity and biodiversity in farmland (the cropped areas in agricultural landscapes), with a view to developing simple rules for landscape management that could increase biodiversity within farmland. Our measures of farmland heterogeneity were crop diversity and mean crop field size, where increases in crop diversity and/or decreases in mean field size represent increasing landscape heterogeneity. We sampled the abundance, and alpha, gamma and beta diversity of birds, plants, butterflies, syrphids, bees, carabids and spiders, in crop fields within each of 93 1 km × 1 km agricultural landscapes. The landscapes were selected to represent three gradients in landscape composition and heterogeneity: proportion of the landscape in crop, mean crop field size and Shannon crop type diversity of the farmland. We found that mean crop field size had the strongest overall effect on biodiversity measures in crop fields, and this effect was consistently negative. Based on our results we suggest that, if biodiversity conservation in crop fields is a priority, policies and guidelines aimed at reducing crop field sizes should be considered.

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