Agriculture intensification reduces plant taxonomic and functional diversity across European arable systems

Carlos P. Carmona*, Irene Guerrero, Begoña Peco, Manuel B. Morales, Juan J. Oñate, Tomas Pärt, Teja Tscharntke, Jaan Liira, Tsipe Aavik, Mark Emmerson, Frank Berendse, Piotr Ceryngier, Vincent Bretagnolle, Wolfgang W. Weisser, Jan Bengtsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
191 Downloads (Pure)


Agricultural intensification is one of the main drivers of species loss worldwide, but there is still a lack of information about its effect on functional diversity of arable weed communities. Using a large-scale pan European study including 786 fields within 261 farms from eight countries, we analysed differences in the taxonomic and functional diversity of arable weeds assemblages across different levels of agricultural intensification. We estimated weed species frequency in each field, and collected species' traits (vegetative height, SLA and seed mass) from the TRY plant trait database. With this information, we estimated taxonomic (species richness), functional composition (community weighted means) and functional diversity (functional richness, evenness, divergence and redundancy). We used indicators of agricultural management intensity at the individual field scale (e.g. yield, inputs of nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides, frequency of mechanical weed control practices) and at the landscape scale surrounding the field (i.e. number of crop types, mean field size and proportion of arable land cover within a radius of 500 m from the sampling points). The effects of agricultural intensification on species and functional richness at the field scale were stronger than those of intensification at the landscape scale, and we did not observe evidence of interacting effects between the two scales. Overall, assemblages in more intensified areas had fewer species, a higher prevalence of species with ruderal strategies (low stature, high leaf area, light seeds), and lower functional redundancy. Maintaining the diversity of Europe's arable weed communities requires some simple management interventions, for example, reducing the high intensity of field-level agricultural management across Europe, which could be complemented by interventions that increase landscape complexity. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1448-1460
Number of pages13
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number7
Early online date02 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 06 Jul 2020


  • agricultural intensification
  • arable plants
  • dispersal
  • functional diversity
  • landscape
  • species richness
  • weeds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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