Management Intensity and Topography Determined Plant Diversity in VineyardsReport as inadecuate

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Vineyards are amongst the most intensive forms of agriculture often resulting in simplified landscapes where semi-natural vegetation is restricted to small scattered patches. However, a tendency toward a more sustainable management is stimulating research on biodiversity in these poorly investigated agro-ecosystems. The main aim of this study was to test the effect on plant diversity of management intensity and topography in vineyards located in a homogenous intensive hilly landscape. Specifically, this study evaluated the role of slope, mowing and herbicide treatments frequency, and nitrogen supply in shaping plant diversity and composition of life-history traits. The study was carried out in 25 vineyards located in the area of the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG Veneto, NE Italy. In each vineyard, 10 plots were placed and the abundance of all vascular plants was recorded in each plot. Linear multiple regression was used to test the effect of management and topography on plant diversity. Management intensity and topography were both relevant drivers of plant species diversity patterns in our vineyards. The two most important factors were slope and mowing frequency that respectively yielded positive and negative effects on plant diversity. A significant interaction between these two factors was also demonstrated, warning against the detrimental effects of increasing mowing intensity on steep slope where plant communities are more diverse. The response of plant communities to mowing frequency is mediated by a process of selection of resistant growth forms, such in the case of rosulate and reptant species. The other two management-related factors tested in this study, number of herbicide treatments and N fertilization, were less influential. In general, our study corroborates the idea that some simple changes in farming activities, which are compatible with grape production, should be encouraged for improving the natural and cultural value of the landscape by maintaining and improving wild plant diversity.

Author: Juri Nascimbene , Lorenzo Marini, Diego Ivan, Michela Zottini



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