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Portrait of Henrik Smith. Photo.

Henrik Smith


Portrait of Henrik Smith. Photo.

Woody elements benefit bird diversity to a larger extent than semi-natural grasslands in cereal-dominated landscapes


  • Matthias Tschumi
  • Klaus Birkhofer
  • Sandra Blasiusson
  • Martin Jörgensen
  • Henrik G. Smith
  • Johan Ekroos

Summary, in English

Increasing landscape complexity can mitigate negative effects of agricultural intensification on biodiversity by offering resources complementary to those provided in arable fields. In particular, grazed semi-natural grasslands and woody elements support farmland birds, but little is known about their relative effects on bird diversity and community composition. In addition, the relative importance of local habitat versus landscape composition remains unclear. We investigated how the presence of semi-natural grasslands, the number of woody elements and the composition of the wider agricultural landscape affect bird species richness, true diversity (exponential Shannon diversity) and species composition. Bird communities were surveyed four times on 16 paired transects of 250 m each with 8 transects placed between a crop field and a semi-natural grassland and 8 transects between two crop fields with no semi-natural grasslands in the vicinity. The number of woody elements around transects was selected as an important predictor in all models, having a positive effect on species richness and true diversity, while the local presence of semi-natural grasslands was not selected in the best models. However, species richness and true diversity increased with increasing cover of ley and semi-natural grasslands, whereas species composition was modified by the coverage of winter wheat at the landscape scale. Furthermore, bird species richness, true diversity and species composition differed between sampling dates. As bird diversity benefited from woody elements, rather than from the local presence of semi-natural grasslands as such, it is important to maintain woody structures in farmland. However, the positive effect of grassland at the landscape scale highlights the importance of habitat variability at multiple scales. Because species richness and true diversity were affected by different landscape components compared to species composition, a mosaic of land-use types is needed to achieve multiple conservation goals across agricultural landscapes.


  • Biodiversity
  • Centre for Environmental and Climate Science (CEC)
  • BECC: Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a Changing Climate
  • Biodiversity and Conservation Science

Publishing year







Basic and Applied Ecology



Document type

Journal article




  • Ecology
  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use


  • Agri-environment schemes
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Common Agricultural Policy
  • Landscape simplification
  • Pastures
  • Tree density



Research group

  • Biodiversity and Conservation Science


  • ISSN: 1439-1791