Bicester, United Kingdom
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Woodcock B.A.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Edwards M.,MIDHURST | Redhead J.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Meek W.R.,60 Midfield Road | And 4 more authors.
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment | Year: 2013

In Europe, oilseed rape is the principal crop used in the production of edible and renewable fuel oil products. Insect pollinators, in particular bees, have been shown to have a positive effect on the seed set of this crop. We undertook experiments looking at behavioural differences between honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees visiting oilseed rape flowers, and related this to landscape scale responses in visitation rates. We found that behavioural differences between honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees alter the likelihood of pollen transfer from their bodies to the plant stigma. Solitary bees and bumblebees tend to have greater rates of stigmal contact than honeybees. The interactions between the likelihood of free pollen on bodies and the probability of stigmal contact suggest that only 34.0% of visitations by honeybees were likely to result in pollen transfer to the stigma, relative to 35.1% for the bumblebees and 71.3% for solitary bees. Visitation rates were higher for honeybees in high quality landscapes with relatively large areas of alternative foraging habitat. Visitation rates of honeybees were also more frequent in the vicinity of managed hives. For solitary bees and bumblebees visitation rates did not respond to landscape structure, although more species of solitary bees were found in landscapes with a high cover of semi-natural grassland. While honeybees may be less efficient in pollen transfer per unit visit, where they numerically outweigh other types of bees in a crop (e.g. around managed hives) this may not be important. For this reason the relative ease with which hives can be moved across landscape means that honeybees are perhaps the most suitable taxa for use as a pro-active mitigation measure against pollinator deficits. However, the greater efficiency of solitary bees compensates for the effort required to implement longer term management (i.e. the establishment of flower rich field margins and open soil nesting sites) to support their populations. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.


Pywell R.F.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Heard M.S.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Bradbury R.B.,Royal Society for the Protection of Birds | Hinsley S.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | And 3 more authors.
Biology Letters | Year: 2012

Agricultural intensification is a leading cause of global biodiversity loss, especially for threatened and near-threatened species. One widely implemented response is 'wildlife-friendly farming', involving the close integration of conservation and extensive farming practices within agricultural landscapes. However, the putative benefits from this controversial policy are currently either unknown or thought unlikely to extend to rare and declining species. Here, we show that new, evidence-based approaches to habitat creation on intensively managed farmland in England can achieve large increases in plant, bee and bird species. In particular, we found that habitat enhancement methods designed to provide the requirements of sensitive target biota consistently increased the richness and abundance of both rare and common species, with 10-fold to greater than 100-fold more rare species per sample area than generalized conventional conservation measures. Furthermore, targeting landscapes of high species richness amplified beneficial effects on the least mobile taxa: plants and bees. Our results provide the first unequivocal support for a national wildlifefriendly farming policy and suggest that this approach should be implemented much more extensively to address global biodiversity loss. However, to be effective, these conservation measures must be evidence-based, and developed using sound knowledge of the ecological requirements of key species. © 2011 The Royal Society.


PubMed | Center for Ecology and Hydrology and Wildlife Farming Company
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Proceedings. Biological sciences | Year: 2015

Ecological intensification has been promoted as a means to achieve environmentally sustainable increases in crop yields by enhancing ecosystem functions that regulate and support production. There is, however, little direct evidence of yield benefits from ecological intensification on commercial farms growing globally important foodstuffs (grains, oilseeds and pulses). We replicated two treatments removing 3 or 8% of land at the field edge from production to create wildlife habitat in 50-60 ha patches over a 900 ha commercial arable farm in central England, and compared these to a business as usual control (no land removed). In the control fields, crop yields were reduced by as much as 38% at the field edge. Habitat creation in these lower yielding areas led to increased yield in the cropped areas of the fields, and this positive effect became more pronounced over 6 years. As a consequence, yields at the field scale were maintained--and, indeed, enhanced for some crops--despite the loss of cropland for habitat creation. These results suggested that over a 5-year crop rotation, there would be no adverse impact on overall yield in terms of monetary value or nutritional energy. This study provides a clear demonstration that wildlife-friendly management which supports ecosystem services is compatible with, and can even increase, crop yields.


Woodcock B.A.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Savage J.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Bullock J.M.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Nowakowski M.,Wildlife Farming Company | And 3 more authors.
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment | Year: 2013

Over three years, a replicated block design was used to investigate the effects of seed mixtures (grasses only; grasses and legumes; grasses, legumes and non-legume forbs), establishment techniques and long term management on beetle and spider communities of grassland swards. We quantified trophic links between phytophagous beetles and their host plants to assess the effect of these seed mixtures and management practices on food web structure. When managed under low intensity cutting regimes the most diverse seed mixture supported the highest biomass of beetles and spiders (c. 3.6kgha-1). Species richness of predatory beetles, phytophagous beetles and spiders were all increased by the sowing of legumes, although the addition of other forbs tended to result in at most modest further increases in invertebrate species richness. Analysis of food web structure suggests that the number of host plants utilised by beetles was greatest within the most diverse seed mixtures, but that this declined rapidly after the establishment year. We demonstrate that by sowing cheap and simple seed mixtures agriculturally improved grasslands can be managed to support increased diversity of spiders and beetles. While seed mixtures do not necessarily need to be of the highest diversity to achieve these benefits, the inclusion of legumes does appear to be crucial. The lower costs of intermediate diversity seed mixtures increase appeal to farmers, increasing the likely uptake of these methodologies in voluntary agri-environment schemes. © 2013.


Pywell R.F.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Meek W.R.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Hulmes L.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Hulmes S.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Insect Conservation | Year: 2011

There have been serious global declines in diversity of bumblebees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. The most effective means of increasing abundance and diversity of bumblebees on farmland is to sow simple, low cost mixtures of dicotyledons rich in pollen and nectar, as prescribed under the UK agri-environment schemes. The potential benefits of this management prescription for butterflies are unknown. Similarly, more information is needed on how to manage this habitat to maximise the provision of pollen and nectar resources whilst protecting breeding habitat for butterflies. This study aimed to devise mixtures and cutting management regimes which address these issues. We found significant effects of seed mixture, timing and frequency of cutting, and removal of cut material on vegetation composition, flower resource availability and pollinators (the abundance, species richness and temporal distribution of butterflies and bumblebees, including males and queens, attracted to the mixtures). We recommend that nectar flower mixtures are refined by the inclusion of the best performing species to provide mid- and late-season forage resources (Trifolium spp., Lotus corniculatus and Centaureanigra), and the removal of competitive grass species. Summer cutting in May or early June, with removal of herbage where possible, should be applied to half the patch to extend the flowering season, and minimise damage to butterfly breeding habitat. This should be accompanied by the typical autumn cut to the whole patch. Even with best management practice, such nectar flower mixtures are only effective for 3-4 years and this should be recognised in policies aimed at enhancing pollinator populations in agricultural landscapes. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.


Pywell R.F.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Meek W.R.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Loxton R.G.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Nowakowski M.,Wildlife Farming Company | And 2 more authors.
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment | Year: 2011

This study contrasted the effects of the most widely implemented, low cost restoration prescriptions promoted by the English AES with more demanding and costly options on plant and invertebrate community composition, and their functional traits. In all cases these prescriptions were compared to intensive crop management. The plant community regenerating from the seed bank was species-poor, highly dynamic and had a high proportion of undesirable crop weeds. Sowing a low-cost, simple mix of tall grasses resulted in a stable community dominated by competitive grasses. Creation of these habitats resulted in negligible shifts in the functional composition of the associated invertebrate community. Sowing a diverse mix of wildflowers resulted in a stable, perennial vegetation community with both legumes and regulating hemi-parasitic plants that supported significantly more pollinator and herbivore species, as well as higher abundances of beneficial arthropod predators. There were no measured synergies when a mix of tall grass and wildflower habitats were created adjacent to each other on the same margin. The results confirm the value of ecological restoration as a potentially useful means of enhancing ecosystem function within intensive farmland systems. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.


Woodcock B.A.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Redhead J.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Vanbergen A.J.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Hulmes L.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | And 5 more authors.
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment | Year: 2010

This study investigated how local habitat type and landscape structure affects the biomass, species richness and functional diversity of ground beetles sampled from a 1000. ha UK arable farm. At a local scale habitat type was either crop (winter wheat and oilseed rape) or one of five field margin habitats. Surrounding each of these sampling areas, landscape structure was defined using remote sensed data from Specim AISA Eagle (400-970. nm) and Hawk (970-2450. nm) hyperspectral sensors. Ground beetles were divided into predatory and phytophagous trophic levels. Local habitat type only affected phytophagous ground beetle biomass, which was lowest within crops. Total biomass of predatory beetles was negatively correlated, and species richness positively correlated, with landscape habitat diversity. Only the functional diversity of predatory ground beetles responded to landscape structure, showing positive correlations with the proportion of Tussock Grass field margins. Predatory ground beetles show a greater dependence on landscape structure than phytophagous species, a response that is attributed to their high mobility needed for movement between dynamically variable food resources. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.


Woodcock B.A.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Bullock J.M.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Nowakowski M.,Wildlife Farming Company | Orr R.,Rothamsted Research | And 2 more authors.
Conservation Letters | Year: 2012

Intensive grassland management has produced floristically species poor swards supporting a limited invertebrate fauna. Low cost seed mixtures can be used to increase floristic diversity and so diversify the food resource of phytophagous invertebrate. We quantify trophic links between plants and phytophagous beetles in grasslands established using three seed mixtures. Using food webs, we model secondary extinctions from the beetle communities caused by the loss of host-plants. Plant species were eliminated according to three scenarios: (1) drought intolerant first; (2) low nutrient status first; (3) stress tolerant first. Diverse seed mixtures containing grasses, legumes, and nonlegume forbs, were more robust to secondary beetle extinctions. The highest diversity seed mixture increased robustness under scenarios of extreme drought in three out of four tested management regimes. Simple and low cost seed mixtures have the potential to promote landscape scale robustness to future environmental change for native invertebrates. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


Pywell R.F.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Heard M.S.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Woodcock B.A.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Hinsley S.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | And 3 more authors.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2015

Ecological intensification has been promoted as a means to achieve environmentally sustainable increases in crop yields by enhancing ecosystem functions that regulate and support production. There is, however, little direct evidence of yield benefits from ecological intensification on commercial farms growing globally important foodstuffs (grains, oilseeds and pulses). We replicated two treatments removing 3 or 8% of land at the field edge from production to create wildlife habitat in 50-60 ha patches over a 900 ha commercial arable farm in central England, and compared these to a business as usual control (no land removed). In the control fields, crop yields were reduced by as much as 38% at the field edge. Habitat creation in these lower yielding areas led to increased yield in the cropped areas of the fields, and this positive effect became more pronounced over 6 years. As a consequence, yields at the field scale were maintained—and, indeed, enhanced for some crops—despite the loss of cropland for habitat creation. These results suggested that over a 5-year crop rotation, there would be no adverse impact on overall yield in terms of monetary value or nutritional energy. This study provides a clear demonstration that wildlife-friendly management which supports ecosystem services is compatible with, and can even increase, crop yields. © 2015 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.


Woodcock B.A.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Savage J.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Bullock J.M.,UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology | Nowakowski M.,Wildlife Farming Company | And 3 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2014

Across N.W. Europe intensive agricultural management has increased productivity to the detriment of floral resources vital for insect pollinators like bees, butterflies and hoverflies. While the creation of wildflower habitats has been widely used to re-establish such resources into arable ecosystems (e.g. sown into field margins), comparable low cost methods for enhancing floristic diversity in production grasslands are lacking. We investigated how simple and cheep seed mixtures based around three plant functional groups (grasses, legumes and non-leguminous forbs) could be used to enhance flowering resources to benefit insect pollinator communities over a four year period. We demonstrate that the abundance and species richness of pollinators was correlated with the increased availability of legume and non-legume forb flowers. While the flowering resources provided by agricultural cultivars of legumes declined rapidly once sown, the inclusion of a forb component within seed mixtures was effective in increasing the long-term persistence of these resources. As a result the abundance and species richness of insect pollinators over the four years showed greater stability where forbs were also sown. Sward management also played a role in the persistence of floral resources, with grazing more likely to maintain legume cover than cutting. In conclusion, we demonstrate that low cost seed mixtures can be used to enhance floristic diversity to benefit pollinators, although the continued value of these grasslands over time is dependent on complementarity between sown legumes and forbs. As permanent grassland covers c. 40% of the UK the enhancement of their floristic diversity has a huge potential to benefit insect pollinators. The type of land sharing approaches suggested here maintain modest agricultural productivity and so may be the most likely to achieve benefit to pollinators through wide-scale farmer uptake. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

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