Evaluating patterns of biodiversity in managed grasslands using spatial turnover metrics

Erin J. Questad, Bryan L. Foster, Suneeti Jog, Kelly Kindscher, Hillary Loring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Market and policy incentives that encourage agricultural intensification, such as incentives for bioenergy, may contribute to biodiversity decline when they encourage a large-scale conversion of native and semi-natural ecosystems to production fields. In order to appreciate the impact of these incentives on biodiversity, it is imperative to better understand how native and semi-natural ecosystems contribute to plant diversity and composition. We studied the five most common types of managed grasslands in Northeastern Kansas, a region undergoing agricultural intensification. We analyzed plant community data recorded at three spatial scales in 98 managed grassland sites, and examined patterns of diversity and composition of plant species and functional groups; and spatial turnover of species and functional groups measured at different spatial scales. We found reduced soil quality and plant diversity as well as a lack of scale-dependent community patterns on sites that were historically cultivated. Forage management practices (haying or grazing) altered plant diversity and composition in native grassland remnants but not in non-native grasslands. We identified several opportunities where changes to existing management practices could benefit both conservation and bioenergy production objectives. Recommendations to conserve biodiversity include increasing the use of hay management or other biomass collection on native grassland remnants and improving the Conservation Reserve Program by increasing enrollment, adding more native species to seed mixes, and incorporating a periodic biomass collection. We also found that using measures of spatial turnover in community composition added important insights in understanding the effects of management decisions on biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1050-1058
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 4 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioenergy
  • Conservation Reserve Program
  • Grazing
  • Hay
  • Land-use
  • Spatial turnover

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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