Novel margin management to enhance Auchenorrhyncha biodiversity in intensive grasslands
Blake, R.J., Woodcock, B.A., Ramsay, A.J., Pilgrim, E.S., Brown, V.K., Tallowin, J.R. and Potts, S. (2011) Novel margin management to enhance Auchenorrhyncha biodiversity in intensive grasslands. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment, 140 (3-4). pp. 506-513. ISSN 0167-8809
To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.agee.2011.02.003
Agricultural intensification, including changes in cutting, grazing and fertilizer regimes, has led to declines in UK and NW European grassland biodiversity. We aimed to develop field margin management practices that would support invertebrate diversity and abundance on intensively managed grassland farms, focusing on planthoppers and leafhoppers (Auchenorrhyncha). Replicated across four farms in south-west England, we manipulated conventional management practices (inorganic fertilizer, cutting frequency and height, and aftermath grazing) to create seven treatments along a gradient of decreasing management intensity and increasing sward architectural complexity. Auchenorrhyncha were sampled annually between 2003 and 2005. Auchenorrhyncha abundance and species richness was highest in the most extensively managed treatments. Abundance was lowest with frequent cutting, while species richness was lowest where cattle grazing occurred. Unexpectedly, application of inorganic fertilizer had no effect on Auchenorrhyncha abundance or species richness. Management options that enhance invertebrate diversity, while allowing the remainder of the field to be managed conventionally, represent a potentially important conservation tool for many lowland improved grasslands. Extensification of conventional management in field margin areas of such grasslands are likely to benefit this numerically dominant component of grassland invertebrate fauna. These management practices have the potential to be incorporated into existing UK and European agri-environment schemes.