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You are here: Home / What we do / Science / Key messages from the 'ECN at 20' Special Issue of Ecological Indicators, 2016 / Pallett, DW., Pescott, OL. and Shafer, SM. Changes in plant species richness and productivity in response to decreased nitrogen inputs in grassland in southern England

Pallett, DW., Pescott, OL. and Shafer, SM. Changes in plant species richness and productivity in response to decreased nitrogen inputs in grassland in southern England

Key points

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The withdrawal of nitrogen-based fertiliser applications [at Wytham, following the introduction of organic farming] resulted in an immediate reduction in grassland productivity, while species richness increased by 300%
Laura C. at Wytham
  1. Understanding the impact of changing farming practices on vegetation diversity and productivity is a key issue in the development of food security policy. Farming at the Wytham ECN site switched from conventional to organic mid-way through the ECN monitoring period, allowing the response of grasslands to reduced fertiliser inputs to be evaluated.
  2. The withdrawal of nitrogen-based fertiliser applications resulted in an immediate reduction in grassland productivity, while species richness increased by 300%.
  3. The study illustrates a clear trade-off, whereby the increase in biodiversity occurs at the expense of productivity, as a consequence of high-yielding nitrogen loving grass species being replaced by a more diverse mix of less productive grasses and forbs.
  4. The study brings into clear focus the challenges of meeting potentially conflicting policy agendas.

 

Reference: Pallett, DW., Pescott, OL. and Shafer, SM. (2016). Changes in plant species richness and productivity in response to decreased nitrogen inputs in grassland in southern England. Ecological Indicators68, 73-81. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.12.024.

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