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Phytodiversity of temperate permanent grasslands ecosystem services for agriculture and livestock management for diversity conservation

Phytodiversity of temperate permanent grasslands ecosystem services for agriculture and livestock management for diversity conservation

Biodiversity and Conservation 20(14): 3317-3339

Plant diversity has been reported to increase productivity. Farming practices aiming at conserving or increasing plant diversity are, however, usually less profitable than conventional ones. In this review, we aim to find reasons for this discrepancy, discuss ecosystem services of grassland phytodiversity that are useful for farmers, and ways of livestock management most beneficial for diversity. Under agricultural conditions, a clear effect of species richness on a site s primary or secondary production has not yet been demonstrated. Reasons could be that species numbers in permanent grassland are above the threshold of five species found effective in experimental plots or that the conditions are more in equilibrium with management than in weeded experimental plots. Other diversity effects on production stability, nutrient and water retention or product quality might convince farmers to increase diversity. However, these should be tested in agricultural situations, as most research has again been carried out in experimental plots. To enhance phytodiversity, grazing has been found superior over mowing, as selective grazing, treading and excreta deposition increase the heterogeneity of a sward and thus the niches available. Especially rotational grazing with intermediate intensity may be advantageous for phytodiversity. However, complex interactions between environmental conditions, sward composition, management and livestock behaviour make it difficult to forecast grazing effects. Thus, ecological and agricultural researchers should cooperate more, e.g. either in interdisciplinary projects or by hiring researchers from the respective other profession and thus diversifying research groups, in order to integrate agricultural management into biodiversity research and biodiversity measurements into agricultural research to advance our understanding of how to make conservation and enhancement of grassland phytodiversity both feasible and sustainable.

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Accession: 036190986

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DOI: 10.1007/s10531-011-0145-6

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