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      Benefits of increasing plant diversity in sustainable agroecosystems

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          Abstract

          1. Recent studies have revealed many potential benefits of increasing plant diversity in natural ecosystems, as well as in agroecosystems and production forests. Plant diversity potentially provides a partial to complete substitute for many costly agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers, pesticides, imported pollinators and irrigation. Diversification strategies include enhancing crop genetic diversity, mixed plantings, rotating crops, agroforestry and diversifying landscapes surrounding croplands. 2. Here we briefly review studies considering how increasing plant diversity influences the production of crops, forage, and wood, yield stability, and several regulating and supporting agroecosystem services. We also discuss challenges and recommendations for diversifying agroecosystems. 3. There is consistently strong evidence that strategically increasing plant diversity increases crop and forage yield, wood production, yield stability, pollinators, weed suppression and pest suppression, whereas effects of diversification on soil nutrients and carbon remain poorly understood. 4. Synthesis. The benefits of diversifying agroecosystems are expected to be greatest where the aims are to sustainably intensify production while reducing conventional inputs or to optimize both yields and ecosystem services. Over the next few decades, as monoculture yields continue to decelerate or decline for many crops, and as demand for ecosystem services continues to rise, diversification could become an essential tool for sustaining production and ecosystem services in croplands, rangelands and production forests.

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          Most cited references78

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          Quantifying the evidence for biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning and services.

          Concern is growing about the consequences of biodiversity loss for ecosystem functioning, for the provision of ecosystem services, and for human well being. Experimental evidence for a relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem process rates is compelling, but the issue remains contentious. Here, we present the first rigorous quantitative assessment of this relationship through meta-analysis of experimental work spanning 50 years to June 2004. We analysed 446 measures of biodiversity effects (252 in grasslands), 319 of which involved primary producer manipulations or measurements. Our analyses show that: biodiversity effects are weaker if biodiversity manipulations are less well controlled; effects of biodiversity change on processes are weaker at the ecosystem compared with the community level and are negative at the population level; productivity-related effects decline with increasing number of trophic links between those elements manipulated and those measured; biodiversity effects on stability measures ('insurance' effects) are not stronger than biodiversity effects on performance measures. For those ecosystem services which could be assessed here, there is clear evidence that biodiversity has positive effects on most. Whilst such patterns should be further confirmed, a precautionary approach to biodiversity management would seem prudent in the meantime.
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            Organization of a Plant-Arthropod Association in Simple and Diverse Habitats: The Fauna of Collards (Brassica Oleracea)

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              Diversity and productivity in a long-term grassland experiment.

              Plant diversity and niche complementarity had progressively stronger effects on ecosystem functioning during a 7-year experiment, with 16-species plots attaining 2.7 times greater biomass than monocultures. Diversity effects were neither transients nor explained solely by a few productive or unviable species. Rather, many higher-diversity plots outperformed the best monoculture. These results help resolve debate over biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, show effects at higher than expected diversity levels, and demonstrate, for these ecosystems, that even the best-chosen monocultures cannot achieve greater productivity or carbon stores than higher-diversity sites.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Journal of Ecology
                J Ecol
                Wiley
                00220477
                July 2017
                July 2017
                June 19 2017
                : 105
                : 4
                : 871-879
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior; University of Minnesota Twin Cities; 1987 Upper Buford Circle Saint Paul MN 55108 USA
                [2 ]USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit; University Park PA 16802 USA
                [3 ]German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig; Deutscher Platz 5e 04103 Leipzig Germany
                [4 ]Institute of Biology; Leipzig University; Johannisallee 21 04103 Leipzig Germany
                [5 ]Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI); Newforge Lane Belfast BT9 5PX UK
                [6 ]Environmental Sciences Policy and Management; University of California Berkeley; Berkeley CA 94720-3114 USA
                [7 ]Department of Environmental Studies; University of California; Santa Cruz CA 95064 USA
                [8 ]Department of Agronomy; Iowa State University; Ames IA 50011 USA
                [9 ]USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Grassland, Soil & Water Research Laboratory; Temple TX 76502 USA
                [10 ]Centro Universitario de la Costa; Universidad de Guadalajara; Puerto Vallarta Jalisco 48280 Mexico
                [11 ]Geobotany, Faculty of Biology; University of Freiburg; Schaenzlestr, 1 79104 Freiburg Germany
                Article
                10.1111/1365-2745.12789
                96ce326d-538a-44be-840e-3fc1492fb3e1
                © 2017

                http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/tdm_license_1.1

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                History

                Social policy & Welfare,Medicine,Biochemistry,Ecology,Environmental studies,Life sciences

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