On the relationship between farmland biodiversity and land-use intensity in Europe

D. Kleijn, F. Kohler, A. Báldi, P. Batáry, E.D. Concepción, Y. Clough, M. Diaz, D. Gabriel, A. Holzschuh, E. Knop, E.J.P. Marshall, T. Tscharntke, J. Verhulst

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519 Citations (Scopus)


Worldwide agriculture is one of the main drivers of biodiversity decline. Effective conservation strategies depend on the type of relationship between biodiversity and land-use intensity, but to date the shape of this relationship is unknown. We linked plant species richness with nitrogen (N) input as an indicator of land-use intensity on 130 grasslands and 141 arable fields in six European countries. Using Poisson regression, we found that plant species richness was significantly negatively related to N input on both field types after the effects of confounding environmental factors had been accounted for. Subsequent analyses showed that exponentially declining relationships provided a better fit than linear or unimodal relationships and that this was largely the result of the response of rare species (relative cover less than 1%). Our results indicate that conservation benefits are disproportionally more costly on high-intensity than on low-intensity farmland. For example, reducing N inputs from 75 to 0 and 400 to 60¿kg¿ha-1¿yr-1 resulted in about the same estimated species gain for arable plants. Conservation initiatives are most (cost-)effective if they are preferentially implemented in extensively farmed areas that still support high levels of biodiversity
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)903-909
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society. B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1658
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • agri-environment schemes
  • agricultural intensification
  • species richness
  • bird populations
  • diversity
  • landscape
  • areas
  • conservation
  • scale
  • set


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