STACCATO : Ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes

To what extent do the structure and density of “green infrastructure” in agricultural zones, and the changes they entail, affect biodiversity and productivity? At the conclusion of this international project, we will formulate recommendations aimed at ensuring sustainable biodiversity and productivity.

  • Background (completed research project)

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    Agricultural lands are often heavily exploited and strongly geared towards maximising production. This reduces biodiversity, which in turn decreases other important ecosystem functions, such as pollination, biological pest control and recreational use. In extreme cases, this can lead to negative feedback effects on crop production.

  • Aims

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    We are investigating the extent to which “green infrastructure” (compensatory areas, extensive grasslands, hedges, etc.) in heavily exploited agricultural zones contributes to maintaining biodiversity, and how this biodiversity affects the sustainable productivity of agricultural systems. The studies are being carried out in six European countries. The eight to ten areas studied per country consist of two sub-areas, one with more green infrastructure, and one with less.

  • Results

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    The international STACCATO project is still ongoing. For this reason, only data collection and partial results from the Swiss component of the project are presented here: The structure and density of green infrastructure strongly influence biodiversity in agricultural areas in a nonlinear manner (preliminary result). The spread of invasive plant species has a direct and negative influence on butterfly communities (definitive result). This effect is independent of the changes in land use, which also affect indigenous plants and butterflies.

  • Significance for research

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    The nonlinearity of the dependence of biodiversity on the density and distance of green infrastructure in agricultural zones has never been investigated in this way before. Also new is the recognition of how invasive plants affect butterfly communities, regardles of land use changes.

  • Practical significance

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    General guidelines for practical application will be formulated after completion of the work. These guidelines will specify the extent to which the density of and distance from green infrastructure influence the biodiversity of individual groups of organisms. This is an important tool in formulating recommendations for the design of agricultural lands to promote sustainable productivity and preserve biodiversity.

  • Original title

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    Sustaining Agricultural Change Through Ecological Engineering and Optimal Use of Natural Resources (STACCATO)