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Do biodiversity-ecosystem functioning experiments inform stakeholders how to simultaneously conserve biodiversity and increase ecosystem service provisioning in grasslands?

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Mark WhittinghamORCiD, Dr Richard Francksen, Dr Matt Hiron, Dr Caroline Rhymer



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2020 The AuthorsTwo key stakeholders primarily important for nature conservation are farmers (and their lobby groups) and conservationists. Both have substantial inputs into environmental strategies and policies calling for biodiversity conservation aimed to directly increase ecosystem services. The scientific literature concurs that as biological diversity increases so do ecosystem functions and services in grasslands. While the evidence for this is strong, the majority comes from controlled small-scale biodiversity-ecosystem functioning (BEF) experiments. Thus, it is unclear whether the scientific basis for implementing BEF relationships into practice is sufficiently evidenced. Here we explore the applicability of findings from BEF experiments to the conservation and management of temperate grassland, a widespread and potentially highly biodiverse habitat. While we acknowledge that BEF research can reveal insights into fundamental mechanisms, the saturation of biodiversity effects at low levels and unrealistic (management) treatments widely impede the applicability of these experimental results to permanent grasslands. Additionally, the integration of BEF research results into practice is considerably hampered by experimental studies not answering stakeholders' crucial questions, e.g. is there evidence of biodiversity conservation potentials? Thus, stakeholders do not have a strong evidence base for taking decisions for the addressed management goals, except intensive production in (species-poor) temporary grasslands. If BEF work is to inform stakeholders future research needs to overcome unrealistic management, missing stakeholder involvement and ineffective communication. A new generation of applied BEF experiments employing applied, multi-actor approaches is needed to facilitate the relevance of BEF research for nature conservation, agriculture and land management.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Klaus VH, Whittingham MJ, Baldi A, Eggers S, Francksen RM, Hiron M, Lellei-Kovacs E, Rhymer CM, Buchmann N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Biological Conservation

Year: 2020

Volume: 245

Print publication date: 01/05/2020

Online publication date: 06/04/2020

Acceptance date: 28/03/2020

Date deposited: 15/04/2020

ISSN (print): 0006-3207

ISSN (electronic): 1873-2917

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108552


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Funder referenceFunder name
stimulated and (partly) funded by the project SUPER-G (
that received funding by the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement N. 774124.