Grasslands enhance ecosystem service multifunctionality above and below-ground in agricultural landscapes.

Published online
08 May 2023
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Tamburini, G. & Aguilera, G. & Öckinger, E.
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Publication language
Sweden & Nordic Countries


Managing agricultural landscapes integrate production, biodiversity conservation and the flow of ecosystem services (ES) is of paramount importance to simultaneously meet production goals and environmental challenges. However, the response of farmland biodiversity and multiple ES to land-use change at multiple spatial scales remains poorly understood. We explored the effects of land-use at local (grassland vs. oilseed rape fields) and landscape scale (cover of permanent grasslands) on the provision of biodiversity (plants, arthropods, birds), five ES (pollination, pest control, soil fertility, carbon storage and water regulation) and overall ES-multifunctionality. ES-multifunctionality was higher in grasslands than in crop fields, by 25.2% above-ground and by 106.1% below-ground. Multiple threshold analyses highlighted a particularly poor level of performance for below-ground functions in crop fields. This habitat type was however capable of providing numerous above-ground functions simultaneously, although at low levels of performance when compared to the maximum values recorded in the study. Grasslands supported higher biodiversity and provision of pollination, soil fertility, carbon storage and water regulation. Landscape composition influenced the provision of multiple ES: a 10% increase in grassland cover in the landscape enhanced above-ground ES-multifunctionality by 11.0% in both habitats. In particular, grasslands cover in the landscape supported the provision of arthropod diversity, pollination and pest control provided by carabids. Synthesis and applications. The results of this field study show the key importance of preserving semi-natural grasslands in agricultural landscapes for the conservation of farmland biodiversity, for the protection of soils and the delivery of multiple ES critical for crop production. Maximization of multifunctionality necessitates the integration at the landscape scale (0.5-2 km) of semi-natural patches within the intensively farmed agricultural matrix. This would require not only the protection of existing grasslands, but also their restoration in simplified landscapes. The promotion of mixed farming (i.e., both crop and livestock production) might increase semi-natural grassland cover at the landscape scale.

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