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A trait‐based approach to plant species selection to increase functionality of farmland vegetative strips

Cresswell, C.J., Cunningham, H.M., Wilcox, A.J. and Randall, N.P. (2019) A trait‐based approach to plant species selection to increase functionality of farmland vegetative strips. Ecology and Evolution.

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.5047

Abstract

Farmland vegetative strips are a proven source of support for ecosystem services and are globally used to mitigate effects of agricultural intensification. However, increasing pressures on agricultural land require increases in their functionality, such as supporting multiple ecosystem services concurrently. The plant species sown in a vegetative strip seed mix determine the establishment, plant community, and ecosystem services that are supported. Currently, there is no clearly defined or structured method to select plant species for multifunctional vegetative strips. Plant traits determine how plants support ecosystem services. Also, the establishment and persistence of plant communities is influenced by key internal and external factors. We propose a novel, evidence‐informed method of multifunctional vegetative strip design based on these essential traits and factors. This study had three distinct stages. The first identified plant traits that support water quality protection, pollinators and/or crop pest natural enemies, using existing research evidence. We then identified key factors affecting plant community establishment and persistence. Finally, we applied these standardized methods to design a multifunctional vegetative strip for a specific case study (UK lowland farmland). Key plant traits identified, included floral display size, flower color, nectar content, leaf surface area, leaf trichome density, percentage fine roots, root length, rooting depth, and root density. Key internal and external establishment factors included life history, native status, distribution, established competitive strategy, associated floristic diversity, flowering time and duration, and preferred soil type and pH. In the United Kingdom case study, we used five different plant traits and all of the identified factors to design a seed mix for a multifunctional vegetative strip. We present a transferable method of vegetative strip design that can be adapted for other ecosystem services and climates. It provides landowners and advisors with an evidence‐informed approach to increase field margin functionality while supporting farmland biodiversity.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: biological control, ecosystem services, environmental factors, field margin, plant characteristics, plant traits, pollination water quality protection
Divisions: Crop and Environment Sciences
Depositing User: Ms Kath Osborn
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2019 14:07
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2019 14:07
URI: http://hau.collections.crest.ac.uk/id/eprint/17393

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