No improvement of plant biodiversity in ditch banks after a decade of agri-environment schemes

M.M. Blomqvist, W.L.M. Tamis, G.R. de Snoo

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36 Citations (Scopus)


Restoring plant species richness in intensively farmed areas by means of agri-environment schemes (AES) seems particularly difficult. We studied the effectiveness of a decade of AES in enhancing biodiversity in ditch banks on six modern dairy farms in the Western Peat District in the Netherlands, taking into account the roles of local productivity and of regional diversity and productivity. Biodiversity is characterised as total number of vascular plant species and number of target plant species and productivity as biomass, Ellenberg N-value and grass/forb ratio. We analyzed the repeated AES relevés sampled in two periods, 1993¿1995 and 2000¿2003 and the diversity¿productivity relationships in space and over time. For the analysis of the role of the regional factors, repeated AES and reference relevés were compared. Number of target species remained stable, whilst the total number of species decreased, and the productivity increased in general in AES ditch banks. We found a clear negative diversity¿productivity relationship in space and over time. AES ditch banks showed higher total number of species and comparable to higher number of target species than the reference ditch banks, in general, however, the productivity was also lower in AES ditch banks. The development of AES ditch banks was similar to the regional developments, although differences tended to become smaller in the study period. We hypothesize that the main reason that ditch bank AES do not overall successfully reduce productivity, is because the AES also recommended late mowing and that because of colonization constraints, the region cannot contribute to a positive development. Improvement of AES should, therefore, include adaptation of the mowing regime in high-productivity situations as well as regional strategies to restore the biodiversity of the ditch bank flora
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-378
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • park grass experiment
  • species richness
  • herbaceous vegetation
  • restoration
  • management
  • diversity
  • biomass
  • productivity
  • communities
  • gradient

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