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Journal Article

Does organic grassland farming benefit plant and arthropod diversity at the expense of yield and soil fertility?


Lange,  Markus
Molecular Biogeochemistry Group, Dr. G. Gleixner, Department Biogeochemical Processes, Prof. S. E. Trumbore, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Klaus, V. H., Kleinebecker, T., Prati, D., Gossner, M. M., Alt, F., Boch, S., et al. (2013). Does organic grassland farming benefit plant and arthropod diversity at the expense of yield and soil fertility? Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 177, 1-9. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2013.05.019.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0018-B3DF-5
Organic management is one of the most popular strategies to reduce negative environmental impacts of intensive agriculture. However, little is known about benefits for biodiversity and potential worsening of yield under organic grasslands management across different grassland types, i.e. meadow, pasture and mown pasture. Therefore, we studied the diversity of vascular plants and foliage-living arthropods (Coleoptera, Araneae, Heteroptera, Auchenorrhyncha), yield, fodder quality, soil phosphorus concentrations and land-use intensity of organic and conventional grasslands across three study regions in Germany. Furthermore, all variables were related to the time since conversion to organic management in order to assess temporal developments reaching up to 18 years. Arthropod diversity was significantly higher under organic than conventional management, although this was not the case for Araneae, Heteroptera and Auchenorrhyncha when analyzed separately. On the contrary, arthropod abundance, vascular plant diversity and also yield and fodder quality did not considerably differ between organic and conventional grasslands. Analyses did not reveal differences in the effect of organic management among grassland types. None of the recorded abiotic and biotic parameters showed a significant trend with time since transition to organic management, except soil organic phosphorus concentrations which decreased with time. This implies that permanent grasslands respond slower and probably weaker to organic management than crop fields do. However, as land-use intensity and inorganic soil phosphorus concentrations were significantly lower in organic grasslands, overcoming seed and dispersal limitation by re-introducing plant species might be needed to exploit the full ecological potential of organic grassland management. We conclude that although organic management did not automatically increase the diversity of all studied taxa, it is a reasonable and useful way to support agro-biodiversity.