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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Land-use history impacts functional diversity across multiple trophic groups

Le Provost, Gaëtane; Badenhausser, Isabelle; Le Bagousse-Pinguet, Yoann; Clough, Yann; Henckel, Laura; Violle, Cyrille; Bretagnolle, Vincent; Roncoroni, Marilyn; Manning, Peter; Gross, Nicolas


Land-use change is a major driver of biodiversity loss worldwide. Although biodiversity often shows a delayed response to land-use change, previous studies have typically focused on a narrow range of current landscape factors and have largely ignored the role of land-use history in shaping plant and animal communities and their functional characteristics. Here, we used a unique database of 220,000 land-use records to investigate how 20-y of land-use changes have affected functional diversity across multiple trophic groups (primary producers, mutualists, herbivores, invertebrate predators, and vertebrate predators) in 75 grassland fields with a broad range of land-use histories. The effects of land-use history on multitrophic trait diversity were as strong as other drivers known to impact biodiversity, e.g., grassland management and current landscape composition. The diversity of animal mobility and resource-acquisition traits was lower in landscapes where much of the land had been historically converted from grassland to crop. In contrast, functional biodiversity was higher in landscapes containing old permanent grasslands, most likely because they offer a stable and high-quality habitat refuge for species with low mobility and specialized feeding niches. Our study shows that grassland-to-crop conversion has long-lasting impacts on the functional biodiversity of agricultural ecosystems. Accordingly, land-use legacy effects must be considered in conservation programs aiming to protect agricultural biodiversity. In particular, the retention of permanent grassland sanctuaries within intensive landscapes may offset ecological debts.


agricultural ecosystems; biodiversity loss; functional diversity; grasslands; land-use changes

Published in

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
2020, Volume: 117, number: 3, pages: 1573-1579

      SLU Authors

    • Henckel, Laura

      • SLU Swedish Species Information Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
      • LTSER Zone Atelier Plaine and Val de Sevre
      • National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA)
      • University of La Rochelle

    Sustainable Development Goals

    Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Agricultural Science, Forestry and Fisheries

    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)