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Plant diversity in crop fields and woody hedgerows of organic and conventional farms in contrasting landscapes

C. Boutin1, A. Baril1 and P.A. Martin2

The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of contrasting agricultural practices in organic and conventional farming (local factors), and to evaluate the influence of surrounding landscape features (regional factors) on plant assemblages, taking into account habitat structure.

Plants were inventoried in crop fields and woody hedgerows (boundary and centre) of 16 conventional and 14 organic sites. Habitat structure, agricultural practices and landscape characteristics were quantified for each habitat.

Hedgerow boundaries contained a higher number of plant species than adjacent habitats although many of them were exotics. However, exotics comprised a decreasing proportion of species richness from field to hedgerow centre. Many of the exotic species were shared between crop fields and adjacent boundaries.

There was a clear difference in species richness and composition between the organic and conventional study sites. Fields and woody hedgerows situated in organic sites consistently harboured more native and exotic plant species than those in conventional systems. Numerous species were only found in organic hedgerows and included several long-lived herbaceous forest species.

At the larger scale level, old-fields (areas with sparse shrubs and trees re-colonizing cleared land) were the only habitats that significantly influenced the species composition of hedgerows, particularly exotic species. Conversely, farm type was a significant predictor of native species richness.

Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment (2008) 123: 185-193

Author Locations and Affiliations
(1) National Wildlife Research Centre, Environment Canada, 1125 Colonel By Drive (Raven Road), Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0H3
(2) Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Burlington, Ontario, Canada L7R 4A6

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Posted December 2007


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