François Munoz 1 , * , Guillaume Fried 2 , Laura Armengot 3 , Bérenger Bourgeois 4 , 5 , 6 , Vincent Bretagnolle 7 , 8 , Joël Chadoeuf 9 , Lucie Mahaut 4 , 10 , Christine Plumejeaud 11 , Jonathan Storkey 12 , Cyrille Violle 10 , Sabrina Gaba 7 , 8 , 13
30 June 2020
The definition of “arable weeds” remains contentious. Although much attention has been devoted to specialized, segetal weeds, many taxa found in arable fields also commonly occur in other habitats. The extent to which adjacent habitats are favorable to the weed flora and act as potential sources of colonizers in arable fields remains unclear. In addition, weeds form assemblages with large spatiotemporal variability, so that many taxa in weed flora are rarely observed in plot-based surveys. We thus addressed the following questions: How often do weeds occur in other habitats than arable fields? How does including field edges extend the taxonomic and ecological diversity of weeds? How does the weed flora vary across surveys at different spatial and temporal scales? We built a comprehensive dataset of weed taxa in France by compiling weed flora, lists of specialized segetal weeds, and plot-based surveys in agricultural fields, with different spatial and temporal coverages. We informed life forms, biogeographical origins and conservation status of these weeds. We also defined a broader dataset of plants occupying open habitats in France and assessed habitat specialization of weeds and of other plant species absent from arable fields. Our results show that many arable weeds are frequently recorded in both arable fields and non-cultivated open habitats and are, on average, more generalist than species absent from arable fields. Surveys encompassing field edges included species also occurring in mesic grasslands and nitrophilous fringes, suggesting spill-over from surrounding habitats. A total of 71.5% of the French weed flora was not captured in plot-based surveys at regional and national scales, and many rare and declining taxa were of Mediterranean origin. This result underlines the importance of implementing conservation measures for specialist plant species that are particularly reliant on arable fields as a habitat, while also pointing out biotic homogenization of agricultural landscapes as a factor in the declining plant diversity of farmed landscapes. Our dataset provides a reference species pool for France, with associated ecological and biogeographical information.