On the relationship between farmland biodiversity and land-use intensity in Europe

D. Kleijn, F. Kohler, A. Báldi, P. Batáry, E. D. Concepción, Y. Clough, M. Díaz, D. Gabriel, A. Holzschuh, E. Knop, A. Kovács, E. J.P. Marshall, T. Tscharntke, J. Verhulst

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445 Citations (Scopus)


Worldwide agriculture is one of the main drivers of biodiversity decline. Effective conservation strategies depend on the type of relationship between biodiversity and land-use intensity, but to date the shape of this relationship is unknown. We linked plant species richness with nitrogen (N) input as an indicator of landuse intensity on 130 grasslands and 141 arable fields in six European countries. Using Poisson regression, we found that plant species richness was significantly negatively related to N input on both field types after the effects of confounding environmental factors had been accounted for. Subsequent analyses showed that exponentially declining relationships provided a better fit than linear or unimodal relationships and that this was largely the result of the response of rare species (relative cover less than 1%). Our results indicate that conservation benefits are disproportionally more costly on high-intensity than on lowintensity farmland. For example, reducing N inputs from 75 to 0 and 400 to 60 kg haK1 yrK1 resulted in about the same estimated species gain for arable plants. Conservation initiatives are most (cost-)effective if they are preferentially implemented in extensively farmed areas that still support high levels of biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)903-909
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1658
Publication statusPublished - Mar 7 2012


  • Agriculture
  • Conservation ecology
  • Farmland wildlife
  • Fertilizer
  • Plant species richness
  • Policy implications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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    Kleijn, D., Kohler, F., Báldi, A., Batáry, P., Concepción, E. D., Clough, Y., Díaz, M., Gabriel, D., Holzschuh, A., Knop, E., Kovács, A., Marshall, E. J. P., Tscharntke, T., & Verhulst, J. (2012). On the relationship between farmland biodiversity and land-use intensity in Europe. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 276(1658), 903-909. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2008.1509