, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 215-226

Diversification of mowing regime increases arthropods diversity in species-poor cultural hay meadows

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Agricultural intensification reduces the biodiversity of European farmlands. Hay meadows represent an important farmland habitat, traditionally used to produce hay. With decreased demand for hay, the continuation of hay harvest is supported by Agri-environmental schemes across European Union. Modern hay harvest techniques differ from traditional manual harvest by removing the grass instantaneously over large land areas. To minimize adverse effects on meadow invertebrates, diversifying harvest operations is time and space is often recommended, but effects of such diversification are little studied. We compared the impact of uniform hay harvests with harvests executed in patchy manners, using four arthropod groups (butterflies, ground beetles, orthopterans and spiders) at productive, species-poor meadows in the Czech Republic. Butterflies, observed along transects, avoided uniformly cut units, preferring those cut as strips or blocks. In the three remaining groups, recorded using pitfall traps, a majority of species prevailed in traps located in uncut conditions. Synchronous mowing of large areas suppresses population sizes and diminishes the diversity of common arthropods. Besides of direct mortality and depletion of such resources as nectar or shelter, it synchronises sward regrowth, threatening also species requiring short-sward patches. Uniformly executed mowing contradicts the biodiversity conservation goal of Agri-environmental schemes. Diversifying the mowing operations via temporary fallows, or sequential mowing of land units, will improve the situation for common cultural meadows.