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Assessing non-intended effects of farming practices on field margin vegetation with a functional approach
- Fried, Guillaume, Villers, Alexandre, Porcher, Emmanuelle
- Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2018 v.261 pp. 33-44
- adverse effects, annuals, conventional farming, edge effects, environmental factors, fertilizer application, functional diversity, grasslands, habitats, herbicides, landscapes, national surveys, nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, perennials, species richness, spray drift, France
- To assess the unwanted side effects of farming practices on non-target plants, we used a nationwide survey of the vegetation of arable field margin strips. The vegetation was surveyed during two years (2013, 2014) in 430 field margins distributed over all agricultural regions of France. We used two complementary multivariate, trait-based approaches to examine how ten plant traits were related to ten environmental variables describing abiotic conditions, landscape factors, field margin management and in-field practices. Generalized additive mixed models were also developed to assess how the same environmental variables correlated with species richness, functional diversity and relative richness of agrotolerant versus hemerophobic species. Traits responded primarily to an environmental gradient of landscape diversity and field margin management. For instance, narrow field margin strips, frequent management and presence of a ditch favoured annual plants, small size at maturity and perennial plants, respectively. The second environmental gradient affecting plant traits was related to field size and intensity of in-field farming practices. On this gradient, fertilizer drift appeared to have a much stronger effect on plant trait composition of field margin strips than herbicide drift. The relationship between species richness, or functional diversity, and environment was consistent with the trait-based approach: the two former variables were negatively correlated with agriculture intensification (e.g. field size). However, this analysis also highlighted new covariates, such as a negative relationship between frequency of herbicide use and species richness. Some of the observed patterns seemed to be driven by differential responses of agrotolerant versus hemerophobic species, with the latter being more species-rich under organic than under conventional farming. Despite efforts to reduce nitrogen inputs since the 2000s, our results shows that N-fertilization still has significant non-intended effects on field margin vegetation. More generally, increasing the width of field margin strips, keeping or restoring semi-natural elements (ditches, hedges) in the field boundary, and lowering the number of management events may promote grassland plant species more typical of semi-natural habitats.