Agricultural intensification and biodiversity partitioning in European landscapes comparing plants, carabids, and birds


  • Corresponding Editor: V. C. Radeloff.


Effects of agricultural intensification (AI) on biodiversity are often assessed on the plot scale, although processes determining diversity also operate on larger spatial scales. Here, we analyzed the diversity of vascular plants, carabid beetles, and birds in agricultural landscapes in cereal crop fields at the field (n = 1350), farm (n = 270), and European-region (n = 9) scale. We partitioned diversity into its additive components α, β, and γ, and assessed the relative contribution of β diversity to total species richness at each spatial scale. AI was determined using pesticide and fertilizer inputs, as well as tillage operations and categorized into low, medium, and high levels. As AI was not significantly related to landscape complexity, we could disentangle potential AI effects on local vs. landscape community homogenization. AI negatively affected the species richness of plants and birds, but not carabid beetles, at all spatial scales. Hence, local AI was closely correlated to β diversity on larger scales up to the farm and region level, and thereby was an indicator of farm- and region-wide biodiversity losses. At the scale of farms (12.83–20.52%) and regions (68.34–80.18%), β diversity accounted for the major part of the total species richness for all three taxa, indicating great dissimilarity in environmental conditions on larger spatial scales. For plants, relative importance of α diversity decreased with AI, while relative importance of β diversity on the farm scale increased with AI for carabids and birds. Hence, and in contrast to our expectations, AI does not necessarily homogenize local communities, presumably due to the heterogeneity of farming practices. In conclusion, a more detailed understanding of AI effects on diversity patterns of various taxa and at multiple spatial scales would contribute to more efficient agri-environmental schemes in agroecosystems.