Do biodiversity-ecosystem functioning experiments inform stakeholders how to simultaneously conserve biodiversity and increase ecosystem service provisioning in grasslands?

Valentin H. Klaus, Mark J. Whittingham, András Báldi, Sönke Eggers, Richard M. Francksen, Matthew Hiron, Eszter Lellei-Kovács, Caroline M. Rhymer, Nina Buchmann

Research output: Contribution to journalShort survey

Abstract

Two key stakeholders primarily important for nature conservation are farmers (and their lobby groups) and conservationists. Both have substantial inputs into environmental strategies and policies calling for biodiversity conservation aimed to directly increase ecosystem services. The scientific literature concurs that as biological diversity increases so do ecosystem functions and services in grasslands. While the evidence for this is strong, the majority comes from controlled small-scale biodiversity-ecosystem functioning (BEF) experiments. Thus, it is unclear whether the scientific basis for implementing BEF relationships into practice is sufficiently evidenced. Here we explore the applicability of findings from BEF experiments to the conservation and management of temperate grassland, a widespread and potentially highly biodiverse habitat. While we acknowledge that BEF research can reveal insights into fundamental mechanisms, the saturation of biodiversity effects at low levels and unrealistic (management) treatments widely impede the applicability of these experimental results to permanent grasslands. Additionally, the integration of BEF research results into practice is considerably hampered by experimental studies not answering stakeholders' crucial questions, e.g. is there evidence of biodiversity conservation potentials? Thus, stakeholders do not have a strong evidence base for taking decisions for the addressed management goals, except intensive production in (species-poor) temporary grasslands. If BEF work is to inform stakeholders future research needs to overcome unrealistic management, missing stakeholder involvement and ineffective communication. A new generation of applied BEF experiments employing applied, multi-actor approaches is needed to facilitate the relevance of BEF research for nature conservation, agriculture and land management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108552
JournalBiological Conservation
Volume245
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

Keywords

  • BEF research
  • Biodiversity crisis
  • Ecosystem services
  • Knowledge generation
  • Plant species richness
  • Real-world grassland management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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