Dedicated biomass crops can enhance biodiversity in the arable landscape

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Haughton, A. J., Bohan, D. A., Clark, S. J., Mallott, M. D., Mallott, V., Sage, R. and Karp, A. 2016. Dedicated biomass crops can enhance biodiversity in the arable landscape. Global Change Biology. Bioenergy. 8 (6), pp. 1071-1081.

AuthorsHaughton, A. J., Bohan, D. A., Clark, S. J., Mallott, M. D., Mallott, V., Sage, R. and Karp, A.

Suggestions that novel, non-food, dedicated biomass crops used to produce bioenergy may provide opportunities to diversify and reinstate biodiversity in intensively managed farmland have not yet been fully tested at the landscape scale. Using two of the largest, currently available landscape-scale biodiversity data sets from arable and biomass bioenergy crops, we take a taxonomic and functional trait approach to quantify and contrast the consequences for biodiversity indicators of adopting dedicated biomass crops on land previously cultivated under annual, rotational arable cropping. The abundance and community compositions of biodiversity indicators in fields of break and cereal crops changed when planted with the dedicated biomass crops, miscanthus and short rotation coppiced (SRC) willow. Weed biomass was consistently greater in the two dedicated biomass crops than in cereals, and invertebrate abundance was similarly consistently higher than in break crops. Using canonical variates analysis, we identified distinct plant and invertebrate taxa and trait-based communities in miscanthus and SRC willows, whereas break and cereal crops tended to form a single, composite community. Seedbanks were shown to reflect the longer term effects of crop management. Our study suggests that miscanthus and SRC willows, and the management associated with perennial cropping, would support significant amounts of biodiversity when compared with annual arable crops. We recommend the strategic planting of these perennial, dedicated biomass crops in arable farmland to increase landscape heterogeneity and enhance ecosystem function, and simultaneously work towards striking a balance between energy and food security.

KeywordsAgronomy; Biotechnology & Applied Microbiology; Energy & Fuels
Year of Publication2016
JournalGlobal Change Biology. Bioenergy
Journal citation8 (6), pp. 1071-1081
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
PubMed ID27867421
PubMed Central IDPMC5101831
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderScottish Executive
DEFRA - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs UK
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
NERC - Natural Environment Research Council
Funder project or codeCropping Carbon (CC) [ISPG]
Delivering Sustainable Systems (SS) [ISPG]
Movement and spatial ecology in agricultural landscapes
Project: 4810
Project: 4778
Project: 4452
PhytoPath, an infrastructure for hundreds of plant pathogen genomes
Publisher's version
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online30 Nov 2015
Publication process dates
Accepted12 Nov 2015
Grant IDRES-227-25-0020
Copyright licenseCC BY

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