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Agriculturally Improved and Semi-Natural Permanent Grasslands Provide Complementary Ecosystem Services in Swedish Boreal Landscapes

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



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2024 by the authors. Permanent grasslands cover more than a third of European agricultural land and are important for a number of ecosystem services. Permanent grasslands used for agriculture are broadly separated into agriculturally improved and semi-natural grasslands. High cultural and natural values linked to semi-natural grasslands are well documented. However, in boreal and hemi-boreal agricultural landscapes, less information is available about the areal coverage of improved permanent grasslands and their role for ecosystem service provision and biodiversity. In Sweden, grasslands are administratively separated into semi-natural (i.e., land that cannot be ploughed) or arable (i.e., improved temporary or permanent grassland on land that can be ploughed). We used data from a large-scale environmental monitoring program to show that improved permanent grassland (i.e., permanent grasslands on arable fields) may be a previously unrecognised large area of the agricultural land use in Sweden. We show that improved permanent grasslands together with semi-natural grasslands are both comparable but also complementary providers of a range of ecosystem services (plant species richness, plant resources for pollinators and forage amount for livestock production). However, as expected, semi-natural grasslands with the highest-level AESs (special values) show high species richness values for vascular plants, plants indicating traditional semi-natural management conditions and red-listed species. Improved permanent grasslands on arable fields are likely an underestimated but integral part of the agricultural economy and ecological function in boreal landscapes that together with high nature value semi-natural grasslands provide a broad range of ecosystem services.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Aguilera Nunez G, Glimskar A, Zacchello G, Francksen RM, Whittingham MJ, Hiron M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Agronomy

Year: 2024

Volume: 14

Issue: 3

Online publication date: 12/03/2024

Acceptance date: 06/03/2024

Date deposited: 08/04/2024

ISSN (electronic): 2073-4395

Publisher: MDPI


DOI: 10.3390/agronomy14030567


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Funder referenceFunder name
774124Commission of the European Communities