To date, biodiversity research primarily focused on the number of plant species present in ecosystems.
To date, biodiversity research primarily focused on the number of plant species present in ecosystems. “Most studies so far have used small, artificially established study plots. However, real-world landscapes are much more complex, and, in addition to natural areas, also contain human-dominated elements such as arable land and urban areas”, says Pascal Niklaus, professor at the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich (UZH).
5,000 Swiss landscapes analyzed
A research team led by Niklaus and part of the Research Priority Program “Global Change and Biodiversity” investigated how different land-cover areas affect vegetation growth in large landscapes. Using aerial imagery, they assessed land-cover in 4,974 landscape plots from all regions in Switzerland. In addition to green areas such as grassland and forest they also considered human-dominated areas including arable fields and settlements. In parallel, they used satellite data to determine plant productivity in these landscapes over a period of 17 years.
Land-cover mixtures are more productive and stable
“We found that landscapes consisting of a mosaic of different land uses were more productive than the average landscape with uniform use”, Niklaus summarizes. This positive effect of land-use diversity and productivity held over many regions, climatic conditions and altitude ranges. Landscape mosaics also showed a temporally more stable productivity. In other words, more diverse landscapes are able to mitigate effects of inter-annual climate variation.
Read more at University of Zurich
Image: Landscapes with different land cover (Credit: University of Zurich)