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A quantitative index of land-use intensity in grasslands integrating mowing, grazing and fertilization

  • Land use is increasingly recognized as a major driver of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in many current research projects. In grasslands, land use is often classified by categorical descriptors such as pastures versus meadows or fertilized versus unfertilized sites. However, to account for the quantitative variation of multiple land-use types in heterogeneous landscapes, a quantitative, continuous index of land-use intensity (LUI) is desirable. Here we define such a compound, additive LUI index for managed grasslands including meadows and pastures. The LUI index summarizes the standardized intensity of three components of land use, namely fertilization, mowing, and livestock grazing at each site. We examined the performance of the LUI index to predict selected response variables on up to 150 grassland sites in the Biodiversity Exploratories in three regions in Germany(Alb, Hainich, Schorlheide). We tested the average Ellenberg nitrogen indicator values of the plant community, nitrogen and phosphorus concentration in theLand use is increasingly recognized as a major driver of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in many current research projects. In grasslands, land use is often classified by categorical descriptors such as pastures versus meadows or fertilized versus unfertilized sites. However, to account for the quantitative variation of multiple land-use types in heterogeneous landscapes, a quantitative, continuous index of land-use intensity (LUI) is desirable. Here we define such a compound, additive LUI index for managed grasslands including meadows and pastures. The LUI index summarizes the standardized intensity of three components of land use, namely fertilization, mowing, and livestock grazing at each site. We examined the performance of the LUI index to predict selected response variables on up to 150 grassland sites in the Biodiversity Exploratories in three regions in Germany(Alb, Hainich, Schorlheide). We tested the average Ellenberg nitrogen indicator values of the plant community, nitrogen and phosphorus concentration in the aboveground plant biomass, plant-available phosphorus concentration in the top soil, and soil C/N ratio, and the first principle component of these five response variables. The LUI index significantly predicted the principal component of all five response variables, as well as some of the individual responses. Moreover, vascular plant diversity decreased significantly with LUI in two regions (Alb and Hainich). Inter-annual changes in management practice were pronounced from 2006 to 2008, particularly due to variation in grazing intensity. This rendered the selection of the appropriate reference year(s) an important decision for analyses of land-use effects, whereas details in the standardization of the index were of minor importance. We also tested several alternative calculations of a LUI index, but all are strongly linearly correlated to the proposed index. The proposed LUI index reduces the complexity of agricultural practices to a single dimension and may serve as a baseline to test how different groups of organisms and processes respond to land use. In combination with more detailed analyses, this index may help to unravel whether and how land-use intensities, associated disturbance levels or other local or regional influences drive ecological processes.show moreshow less

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Author:Nico Blüthgen, Carsten F. Dormann, Daniel Prati, Valentin H. Klaus, Till Kleinebecker, Norbert Hoelzel, Fabian Alt, Steffen Boch, Sonja Gockel, Andreas Hemp, Jörg Müller, Jens Nieschulze, Swen C. Renner, Ingo Schöning, Uta Schumacher, Stephanie A. Socher, Konstans Wells, Klaus Birkhofer, Francois Buscot, Yvonne Oelmann, Christoph Rothenwöhrer, Christoph Scherber, Teja Tscharntke, Christiane N. Weiner, Markus Fischer, Elisabeth K. V. Kalko, Karl Eduard Linsenmair, Ernst-Detlef Schulze, Wolfgang W. Weisser
DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.baae.2012.04.001
ISSN:1439-1791 (print)
Parent Title (English):Basic and applied ecology : Journal of the Gesellschaft für Ökologie
Publisher:Elsevier
Place of publication:Jena
Document Type:Article
Language:English
Year of first Publication:2012
Year of Completion:2012
Release Date:2017/03/26
Tag:Agro-ecosystems; Biodiversity exploratories; Grassland management; Land-use impacts; Livestock density; Meadows; Nitrogen; Pastures
Volume:13
Issue:3
Pagenumber:14
First Page:207
Last Page:220
Funder:DFG Priority Program 1374 "Infrastructure-Biodiversity-Exploratories"
Organizational units:Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Institut für Biochemie und Biologie
Peer Review:Referiert