Identifying drivers of changes in relative abundances in agroecosystems

C. Brophy, J. A. Finn, A. Luscher, M. Suter, L. Kirwan, M. T. Sebastià, Á. Helgadóttir, O. H. Baadshaug, G. Belanger, A. Black, R. P. Collins, Cop Jure, S. Dalmannsdóttir, I. Delgado, A. Elgersma, M. Fothergill, B. E. Frankow-Lindberg, A. Ghesquiere, B. Golinska, P. GrieuA. M. Gustavsson, M. Hoglind, O. Huguenin-Elie, M. Jorgensen, Z. Kadziuliene, P. Kurki, R. Llurba, T. Lunnan, C. Porqueddu, U. Thumm, J. Connolly

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Increasing species diversity often promotes ecosystem functions in grasslands, but sward diversity may be reduced over time through competitive interactions among species. We investigated the development of species’ relative abundances in intensively managed agricultural grassland mixtures over three years to
identify the drivers of diversity change. A continental-scale field experiment was conducted at 31 sites using 11 different four-species mixtures each sown at two seed abundances. The four species consisted of two grasses and two legumes, of which one was fast establishing and the other temporally persistent. We
modelled the dynamics of the four-species mixtures over the three-year period. The relative abundances shifted substantially over time; in particular, the relative abundance of legumes declined over time but stayed above 15% in year three at many sites. We found that species’ dynamics were primarily driven by
differences in the relative growth rates of competing species and secondarily by density dependence and climate. Alongside this, positive diversity effects in yield were found in all years at many sites
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 27th General Meeting of the European Grassland Federation
Subtitle of host publicationSustainable meat and milk production from grasslands
EditorsB. Horan, D. Hennessy, M. O'Donovan, E. Kennedy, B. McCarthy, J. A. Finn, B. O'Brien
Number of pages3
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-84170-644-3
ISBN (Print)978-1-84170-643-6
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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