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Weeds are vital to the existence of farmland species, study finds
Date:9/29/2011

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The team of researchers converted seed counts into mass and energy estimates; they found that shed seeds and berries available on a single organic farm have can produce a staggering 560 gigajoules of energy.

Dr Evans added: "We show that an increase in farm management intensity can lead to a decline of up to 19% in overall seed biomass and energy, which is presumably why agricultural intensification causes many farmland birds to suffer a 'hunger-gap' in mid-winter. Non-farmed habitats such as woodlands and hedgerows are important for seed resources, but we also show that some farmed areas are too".

The team predicted that increased farming intensity can have large cascading effects throughout an entire ecosystem, which can indirectly affect animals associated with the seeds.

The scientists conclude that farmers can maintain or enhance biodiversity by appropriately managing uncultivated, semi-natural habitats such as hedgerows and woodlands but that even small changes to cropped areas, such as allowing some weed species to grow, could have a huge impact on the quantity and variety of seeds available on the farm and the animals that feed on them. They suggest that rather than focussing limited conservation resources on a small number of charismatic species such as birds, an alternative approach is to understand and manage the complex network of species interactions on farms and to explore ways of incorporating this into policy.


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Contact: Claire Mulley
c.mulley@hull.ac.uk
01-482-466-943
University of Hull
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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