Effects of landscape complexity on the ecological effectiveness of agri-environment schemes

Abstract

Agricultural intensification is a major cause for biodiversity loss. It occurs at field scales through increased inputs and outputs, and at landscape scales through landscape simplification. Agri-environment schemes (AES) of the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) aim at reducing biodiversity loss by promoting extensification of agricultural practises mostly at field scales. We present a conceptual model for the relationship between landscape complexity and ecological effectiveness of AES based on (a) non-linear relationships between landscape complexity and abundance and diversity at field scales and (b) four possible interactive scenarios between landscape- and field scale effects on abundance and diversity. We then evaluated whether and how effectiveness of AES interacted with landscape-scale effects of intensification along a landscape complexity gradient established in central Spain. Pairs of cereal fields with and without AES but with the same landscape context were selected in three regions differing in landscape complexity. Effectiveness of AES was measured as differences between paired fields in species richness and abundance of five target groups (birds, grasshoppers and crickets, spiders, bees and plants). Landscape metrics were measured in 500–m radius circular plots around field centres. Positive, negative and no effects of landscape complexity on effectiveness of AES were found, suggesting that effects of complexity on effectiveness of AES changes from positive to negative along gradients of landscape complexity. Effectiveness of AES for improving biodiversity was then constrained by landscape. Compulsory measures aimed at enhancing or maintaining landscape complexity would enhance the effectiveness of AES for preserving biodiversity in farmed landscapes.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge farm owners for allowing working in their lands. R. Carbonell, J. de Esteban, F. Fernández, V. González, R. Jöhl, A. Melic, J.A. Millán, B. Nicolau, T. Walter and J.L. Yela for their hard work. This work was funded by the EU Project QLK5-CT-2002–1495 Evaluating current European Agri-environment Schemes to quantify and improve Nature Conservation efforts in agricultural landscapes (EASY). The EASY team, and specially its coordinator David Kleijn, has been a continuous source of inspiration and encouragement. Comments made by David and by Teja Tscharntke on a first draft improved it a great deal. Suggestions made by two anonymous referees were very helpful during revision. E.D.C. has been granted while developing this study by a FPU fellowship from the Spanish Ministerio of Educación y Ciencia.

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Correspondence to Mario Díaz.

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For M. Díaz: New address from October 2007: Instituto de Recursos Naturales, Centro de Ciencias Medioambientales–CSIC, Serrano 115, Madrid E-28006, Spain

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Concepción, E.D., Díaz, M. & Baquero, R.A. Effects of landscape complexity on the ecological effectiveness of agri-environment schemes. Landscape Ecol 23, 135–148 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-007-9150-2

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Keywords

  • Abundance
  • Bees
  • Birds
  • Field-scale effects
  • Grasshoppers and crickets
  • Interactive effects
  • Landscape-scale effects
  • Plants
  • Species density
  • Spiders