Inconsistent effects of landscape heterogeneity and land-use on animal diversity in an agricultural mosaic: a multi-scale and multi-taxon investigation
The landscape heterogeneity hypothesis states that increased heterogeneity in agricultural landscapes will promote biodiversity. However, this hypothesis does not detail which components of landscape heterogeneity (compositional or configurational) most affect biodiversity and how these compare to the effects of surrounding agricultural land-use.
Our objectives were to: (1) assess the influence of the components of structural landscape heterogeneity on taxonomic diversity; and (2) compare the effects of landscape heterogeneity to those of different types of agricultural land-use in the same landscape across different taxonomic groups.
We identified a priori independent gradients of compositional and configurational landscape heterogeneity within an agricultural mosaic of north-eastern Swaziland. We tested how bird, dung beetle, ant and meso-carnivore richness and diversity responded to compositional and configurational heterogeneity and agricultural land-use across five different spatial scales.
Compositional heterogeneity best explained species richness in each taxonomic group. Bird and ant richness were both positively correlated with compositional heterogeneity, whilst dung beetle richness was negatively correlated. Commercial agriculture positively influenced bird species richness and ant diversity, but had a negative influence on dung beetle richness. There was no effect of either component of heterogeneity on the combined taxonomic diversity or richness at any spatial scale.
Our results suggest that increasing landscape compositional heterogeneity and limiting the negative effects of intensive commercial agriculture will foster diversity across a greater number of taxonomic groups in agricultural mosaics. This will require the implementation of different strategies across landscapes to balance the contrasting influences of compositional heterogeneity and land-use. Strategies that couple large patches of core habitat across broader scales with landscape structural heterogeneity at finer scales could best benefit biodiversity.
KeywordsLandscape heterogeneity Composition Configuration Land-use Biodiversity Agriculture Africa Scale Conservation
We are grateful to all the field assistants who helped with the collection of the data and to the land owners who granted permission to work on their properties. We also acknowledge considerable support from All Out Africa and the Savanna Research Centre. This research was funded by an NSF ISE Grant (No. 1459882) and the College of Agriculture and Life Science at the University of Florida.
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