Grassland management intensification weakens the associations among the diversities of multiple plant and animal taxa
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Land-use intensification is a key driver of biodiversity change. However, little is known about how it alters relationships between the diversities of different taxonomic groups, which are often correlated due to shared environmental drivers and trophic interactions. Using data from 150 grassland sites, we examined how land-use intensification (increased fertilization, higher livestock densities, and increased mowing frequency) altered correlations between the species richness of 15 plant, invertebrate, and vertebrate taxa. We found that 54% of pairwise correlations between taxonomic groups were significant and positive among all grasslands, while only one was negative. Higher land-use intensity substantially weakened these correlations (35% decrease in r and 43% fewer significant pairwise correlations at high intensity), a pattern which may emerge as a result of biodiversity declines and the breakdown of specialized relationships in these conditions. Nevertheless, some groups (Coleoptera, Heteroptera, Hymenoptera and Orthoptera) were consistently correlated with multidiversity, an aggregate measure of total biodiversity comprised of the standardized diversities of multiple taxa, at both high and low land-use intensity. The form of intensification was also important; increased fertilization and mowing frequency typically weakened plant-plant and plant-primary consumer correlations, whereas grazing intensification did not. This may reflect decreased habitat heterogeneity under mowing and fertilization and increased habitat heterogeneity under grazing. While these results urge caution in using certain taxonomic groups to monitor impacts of agricultural management on biodiversity, they also suggest that the diversities of some groups are reasonably robust indicators of total biodiversity across a range of conditions.
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