The impact of agricultural intensification and land-use change on the European arable flora
Still, K. S.
The impact of crop management and agricultural land use on the threat status of plants adapted to arable habitats was analysed using data from Red Lists of vascular plants assessed by national experts from 29 European countries. There was a positive relationship between national wheat yields and the numbers of rare, threatened or recently extinct arable plant species in each country. Variance in the relative proportions of species in different threat categories was significantly explained using a combination of fertilizer and herbicide use, with a greater percentage of the variance partitioned to fertilizers. Specialist species adapted to individual crops, such as flax, are among the most threatened. These species have declined across Europe in response to a reduction in the area grown for the crops on which they rely. The increased use of agro-chemicals, especially in central and northwestern Europe, has selected against a larger group of species adapted to habitats with intermediate fertility. There is an urgent need to implement successful conservation strategies to arrest the decline of this functionally distinct and increasingly threatened component of the European flora.