Land Management in Forest and Grasslands: How Much Can We Intensify?


High land-use intensity reduces the beneficial effects of biodiversity on ecosystem services. 

High land-use intensity reduces the beneficial effects of biodiversity on ecosystem services. This is the main result of a study conducted by an international team led by researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the University of Bern. The study published in PNAS assessed, for the first time, the effects of land management on the links between three ecosystem attributes simultaniously: biodiversity, ecosystem functions and ecosystem services. It identified thresholds of management intensity, where these relationships change dramatically, which species groups were most important in driving services, and the ecosystem services that are at risk when management is intensified.

Ecosystem services are crucial for human well-being and they depend on a well-functioning ecosystem and complex interactions among many organisms. However, human activities are resulting in biodiversity loss and changes to ecosystems, which threatens the supply of key services. An international team of 32 scientists, from 22 institutions, led by Dr Maria Felipe-Lucia (UFZ, iDiv) and Prof Eric Allan (University of Bern) now present the very first assessment of the simultaneous effects of land-use intensity on biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and services.

A new approach to investigate shifts in the ecosystem

The researchers investigated how these interactions vary with land-use intensity. They analysed data from 300 German grasslands and forests, varying in land-use intensity, and borrowed approaches from network analysis to characterize the overall relationships between biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services.

Read more at German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

Image: In high land-use intensity grasslands, forage quality and biomass are strongly favored, at the expense of other functions and services and multi-trophic diversity. (Credit: Pete Manning)