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Luscher G.,Institute for Sustainability science ISS | Luscher G.,University of Zürich | Jeanneret P.,Institute for Sustainability science ISS | Schneider M.K.,Institute for Sustainability science ISS | And 23 more authors.
Basic and Applied Ecology | Year: 2015

Wild bees, spiders, earthworms and plants contribute considerably to biodiversity in grasslands and fulfil vital ecological functions. They also provide valuable services to agriculture, such as pollination, pest control and maintenance of soil quality. We investigated the responses of wild bees, spiders, earthworms and plants to geographic location, agricultural management and surrounding landscape variables using a dataset of 357 grassland fields within 88 farms in six European regions. Regions and taxonomic groups were selected to have contrasting properties, in order to capture the multiple facets of European grasslands. Geographic location alone had a dominant effect on the fauna and flora communities. Depending on the taxonomic group, various agricultural management and surrounding landscape variables alone had an additional significant effect on observed species richness, rarefied species richness and/or abundance, but it was always small. Bee species richness and abundance decreased with increasing number of mechanical operations (e.g. cutting). Observed spider species richness and abundance were unrelated to measured aspects of agricultural management or to surrounding landscape variables, whereas rarefied species richness showed significant relations to nitrogen input, habitat diversity and amount of grassland habitats in the surroundings. Earthworm abundance increased with increasing nitrogen input but earthworm species richness did not. Observed plant species richness decreased with increasing nitrogen input and increased when there were woody habitats in the surroundings. Rarefied plant species richness decreased with mechanical operations. Investigating multiple regions, taxonomic groups and aspects of fauna and flora communities allowed identifying the main factors structuring communities, which is necessary for designing appropriate conservation measures and ensuring continued supply of services. © 2015 Gesellschaft für Ökologie.

Kovacs-Hostyanszkia A.,MTA OK Lendulet Ecosystem Services Research Group | Elek Z.,Eötvös Loránd University | Balazs K.,Szent Istvan University | Centeri C.,Szent Istvan University | And 6 more authors.
Ecological Indicators | Year: 2013

The benefits of low input farming on biodiversity and ecosystem services are already well-established, however most of these studies focus only on the focal field scales. We aimed to study whether these benefits exist at the whole farm scale, to find the main environmental driving effects on biodiversity at the whole farm scale in farms of different grassland grazing intensity, applying three well-known species diversity indicator groups of different ecological traits. Edaphic (earthworms), epigeic (spiders) and flying (bees) taxa were sampled in each identified habitat type within 18 low-input farms in Central Hungary, 2010. The number of habitat types, the number of grassland plots, the cumulative area of grasslands and habitat type had an effect on the species richness and abundance of spiders, while grassland grazing intensity influenced the species richness of bees. Both bees and spiders were sensitive to vegetation and weather conditions, resulting in more bees on flower-rich farms and those having higher temperature; and more spiders on farms with more heterogeneous vegetation structure and in low-wind areas. Relatively few earthworms were found in the whole study, and their abundance was not influenced by any of the farm composition and management variables. We conclude that local field management (grazing intensity of grassland patches) can have a farm scale effect, detectable on species diversity indicators that have high dispersal ability and strong connection to grasslands as important foraging sites (bees). However, other farmland biota (spiders) is also strongly determined by farmland composition and habitat diversity, therefore the maintenance of a mosaic within-farm habitat structure is strongly recommended. The application of earthworms as farmland composition or management indicators is strongly restricted because of their special needs of soil conditions. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Bereczki K.,Szent Istvan University | Bereczki K.,MTA OK Lendulet Ecosystem Services Research Group | Odor P.,Institute of Ecology and Botany | Csoka G.,Forest Research Institute | And 2 more authors.
Forest Ecology and Management | Year: 2014

Controlling herbivore insects by insectivorous birds is a major ecosystem service, nevertheless little is known about how local habitat features and forest management influence the efficiency of this service and about how the pest control service birds provide can be maintained and improved. We conducted an experiment in temperate oak forests in the Mátra Mountains, northern Hungary to measure bird predation rate of artificial caterpillars resembling winter moth (Operophtera brumata L.) larvae, to evaluate the relationships among insectivorous bird communities, caterpillar populations and leaf damage caused by caterpillars and to assess the effect of forest heterogeneity on these processes. We found, that structurally heterogeneous forests maintained a significantly higher abundance of insectivorous birds. Especially the tree size heterogeneity increased bird abundance. The rate of bird predation was positively related to the abundance of insectivorous birds as well as to caterpillar abundance, which indicates that birds were able to respond to caterpillar density. We were not able to demonstrate a direct negative effect of bird predation on caterpillar abundance and a positive effect of caterpillar abundance on leaf damage. Structurally heterogeneous forests, however, suffered from less leaf damage than did homogeneous forests, which result may indicates that the higher activity of insectivorous birds in heterogeneous stands resulted in lower activity of insect herbivores. Thus, we concluded that forest management can contribute to the mitigation of insect damages by maintaining the suitability of forest stands to the insectivorous bird communities through the maintenance of high stand heterogeneity and the presence of some key elements (e.g. retention tree groups, tree diversity, shrub layer). © 2014 Elsevier B.V.

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