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Similarity between agricultural and natural land covers shapes how biodiversity responds to agricultural expansion at landscape scales

Citation

Wilson, Scott (2021), Similarity between agricultural and natural land covers shapes how biodiversity responds to agricultural expansion at landscape scales, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.vhhmgqnqx

Abstract

The impact of agriculture on biodiversity depends on the extent and types of agriculture and the degree to which agricultural land contrasts with the natural ecosystem. Most research on the latter comes from studies on the influence of different agricultural types within a single ecosystem with far less study on how the natural ecosystem context shapes the response of biodiversity to agricultural production. We used citizen science data from agricultural areas in Canada’s Eastern Hardwood-Boreal (forest ecosystem, n=108 landscapes) and Prairie Pothole (prairie ecosystem, n=99) regions to examine how ecosystem context shapes the response of avian species diversity, functional diversity and abundance to the amount of arable crop and pastoral agriculture at landscape scales. Avian surveys were conducted along 8km transects of Breeding Bird Survey routes with land cover assembled within a 20km2 landscape around each transect. The amount of agriculture at which species diversity peaked differed between the forest (15%) and prairie (51%) ecosystems, indicating that fewer species tolerated the expansion of agriculture in the former. In both ecosystems, functional diversity initially increased with agriculture and peaked at higher amounts (forest: 42%, prairie: 77 %) than species diversity suggesting that functional redundancy was lost first as agriculture increased. Species turnover with increasing agriculture was primarily among functional groups in forest where a shift from a low to a high agriculture landscape led to a decline in the percent of the community represented by Neotropical migrants, insectivores, upper foliage gleaners and bark foragers, and an increase in the percent of the community represented by short-distance migrants, granivores, omnivores and ground gleaners. There were few distinct shifts in the percent of the community represented by different functional groups in the prairie ecosystem. Total abundance was the least sensitive measure examined in both ecosystems and indicated that species losses with agriculture are likely followed by numerical compensation from agriculture tolerant species. Our results highlight the importance of ecosystem context for understanding how biodiversity is affected by agricultural production with declines in diversity occurring at lower agricultural extents in ecosystems with lower similarity between natural and agricultural land covers. These findings allow for more specific conservation recommendations including managing for species intolerant to agriculture in prairie ecosystems and limiting the expansion of high contrast agriculture and the loss of semi-natural habitat, such as hedge rows, in historically forested ecosystems.

Methods

Avian data is based on citizen science surveys collected during the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Land cover data is based on Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada crop mapping data which integrates remotely sensed and other sources of information to generate a 30m resolution spatial layer of natural and agricultural land covers. These datasets were combined to examine avian diversity and abundance along sections of BBS routes (i.e. transects) in relation to extent of agricultural land cover in the Eastern Hardwoods and Prairie ecosystems in Canada.

Usage Notes

All cells contain data where a row is a transect and columns specify information about the transect, avian data and land cover measurements.