Rowe, Rebecca L., Hanley, Mick E., Goulson, Dave, Clarke, Donna J., Doncaster, C. Patrick and Taylor, Gail
Potential benefits of commercial willow Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) for farm-scale plant and invertebrate communities in the agri-environment
Biomass and Bioenergy, 35, (1), . (doi:10.1016/j.biombioe.2010.08.046).
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The cultivation of bioenergy crops (BECs) represents a significant land-use change in agri-environments, but their deployment has raised important issues globally regarding possible impacts on biodiversity. Few studies however, have systematically examined the effect of commercial scale bioenergy plantations on biodiversity in agri-ecosystems. In this study we investigate how the abundance and diversity of two key components of farmland biodiversity (ground flora and winged invertebrates) varied between mature willow Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) and two alternative land-use options (arable crops and set-aside land). Although the abundance of winged invertebrates was similar across all land-uses, taxonomic composition varied markedly. Hymenoptera and large Hemiptera (>5 mm) were more abundant in willow SRC than in arable or set-aside. Similarly although plant species richness was greater in set-aside, our data show that willow SRC supports a different plant community to the other land-uses, being dominated by competitive perennial species such as Elytrigia repens and Urtica dioica. Our results suggest that under current management practices a mixed farming system incorporating willow SRC can benefit native farm-scale biodiversity. In particular the reduced disturbance in willow SRC allows the persistence of perennial plant species, potentially providing a stable refuge and food sources for invertebrates. In addition, increased Hymenoptera abundance in willow SRC could potentially have concomitant effects on ecosystem processes, as many members of this Order are important pollinators of crop plants or otherwise fulfil an important beneficial role as predators or parasites of crop pests.
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