How much will it cost to save grassland diversity?

Institut fũr Landwirtschaftliche Betriebslehre, Universität Hohenheim, Schloss Osthof-Sũd, 70599 Stuttgart, Germany
Biological Conservation (Impact Factor: 3.76). 07/2004; 122(2):263-273. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2004.07.016


Conservation initiatives are failing to arrest the global loss of biodiversity. From our mechanistic studies of ecology and economics, we suggest that for grazing lands the root cause of this failure is a powerful economic deterrent to measures designed to protect diversity. We identify an exponential relationship between monetary returns and intensification of farming methods over an extremely wide range of grassland productivities and farm systems. At intermediate to high levels of fertility, however, this exponential increase in financial benefit from intensification is associated with a decline in biodiversity and an acceleration of the ecological processes driving species losses from grassland ecosystems.

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Available from: Stephan Dabbert
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    • "In semi-natural temperate grasslands cessation or intensifi cation of traditional land use are considered to be the most important drivers of the diversity loss witnessed within the last decades (Poschlod et al. 2005, Hodgson et al. 2005). In addition to the changing local conditions due to land use change, remaining semi-natural grassland get more isolated and there is less seed dispersal by livestock among isolated grassland patches. "
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    ABSTRACT: Identifying drivers of species diversity is a major challenge in understanding and predicting the dynamics of species-rich semi-natural grasslands. In particular in temperate grasslands changes in land use and its consequences, i.e. increasing fragmentation, the on-going loss of habitat and the declining importance of regional processes such as seed dispersal by livestock, are considered key drivers of the diversity loss witnessed within the last decades. It is a largely unresolved question to what degree current temperate grassland communities already reflect a decline of regional processes such as longer distance seed dispersal. Answering this question is challenging since it requires both a mechanistic approach to community dynamics and a sufficient data basis that allows identifying general patterns. Here, we present results of a local individual- and trait-based community model that was initialized with plant functional types (PFTs) derived from an extensive empirical data set of species-rich grasslands within the ‘Biodiversity Exploratories’ in Germany. Driving model processes included above- and belowground competition, dynamic resource allocation to shoots and roots, clonal growth, grazing, and local seed dispersal. To test for the impact of regional processes we also simulated seed input from a regional species pool. Model output, with and without regional seed input, was compared with empirical community response patterns along a grazing gradient. Simulated response patterns of changes in PFT richness, Shannon diversity, and biomass production matched observed grazing response patterns surprisingly well if only local processes were considered. Already low levels of additional regional seed input led to stronger deviations from empirical community pattern. While these findings cannot rule out that regional processes other than those considered in the modeling study potentially play a role in shaping the local grassland communities, our comparison indicates that European grasslands are largely isolated, i.e. local mechanisms explain observed community patterns to a large extent.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Oikos
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    • "Henle et al. (2008) suggested that the abandonment of marginally productive but HNV farmland is a major source of biodiversity-related conflicts and Hodgson et al. (2005) found that high biodiversity is associated with areas where the livestock carrying capacity and marginal returns are low. The economic benefits of intensif ication are associated with a reduction in biodiversity and the acceleration of the ecological processes that drive species losses in grassland ecosystems (Hodgson et al., 2005). "
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    ABSTRACT: In semi-natural mountain meadows, yield and forage quality must be reconciled with plant biodiversity conservation.This study was performed to analyze the relationships between these three parameters. To quantify plant biodiversity and pastoral value (PV), phytosociological inventories were performed in 104 semi-natural meadows in the Central Spanish Pyrenees included in the Natura 2000 network. Forage yields were calculated and forage samples were analyzed for relative feed value (RFV). We identified two main types of meadows: (i) those that had “more intensive management,” relatively close to farm buildings, with little or no slope, dominated by grasses, with low plant biodiversity, high PV and yield, but low forage quality and (ii) those that had “less intensive management,” distant from farm buildings, on slopes, richer in “other forbs”, with high plant biodiversity and forage quality, but low PV and yield. Conservation policies should emphasize less intensive management practices to maintain plant diversity in the semi-natural meadows in the Pyrenees. The widespread view that “other forbs” have low nutritional value should be revised in future research. These species often are undervalued by the PV method, because their nutritional quality, digestibility and intake are poorly understood.
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    • "age did not seem to significantly affect their floristic patterns either . This seems to confirm that these traditional activities , when performed in moderation , contribute to the maintenance of plant diversity , by decreasing the competitive dominant species ( Collins et al . 1998 ; Olff & Ritchie 1998 ) . According to Dutoit et al . ( 2005 ) , Hodgson et al . ( 2005 ) , Rö mermann et al . ( 2005 ) and San Miguel ( 2008 ) , we must take into account that in habitat type 6220 , floristic patterns will suffer loss of biodiversity if there is an intensification of either agricultural or pastoral activities or alternatively their abandonment . Abandonment of traditional manage - ment activities would le"
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    ABSTRACT: /terms-and-conditions This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae, and drug doses should be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings, demand, or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2012
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