SIMBIOSYS Project: Yield-biodiversity trade-off in fields of Miscanthus x giganteus

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Resource or Project Abstract

Increasing crop productivity to meet rising demands for food and energy, but doing so in an environmentally sustainable manner, is one of the greatest challenges for agriculture to date. In Ireland, Miscanthus x giganteus has the potential to become a major feedstock for bioenergy production, but the economic feasibility of its cultivation depends on high yields. Commercial Miscanthus crops show a large number of gaps in crop cover, impacting on yields and hence economic viability. Predominantly positive effects of Miscanthus on biodiversity reported from research might be attributable to high crop patchiness during the establishment phase. The aim of this research was to assess crop patchiness on a field scale and to analyse the relationship between Miscanthus yield and species richness and abundance of selected taxa of farmland wildlife.

We studied 14 Miscanthus fields at the end of their establishment phase (4-5 years after planting). Patchiness of the crop was recorded by mapping the perimeter of gaps at randomly selected points along 200-m-transects. At those points we surveyed percentage light penetration to the lower canopy, assessed Miscanthus shoot density and height, surveyed vascular plants and sampled epigeic arthropds.

Plant species richness and non-crop vegetation cover in Miscanthus fields increased with increasing patchiness, due to higher levels of light penetration to the lower canopy. The species richness of ground beetles and the activity density of spiders followed the increase of vegetation cover. At yield levels considered as typical for Irish farms, plant species richness, vegetation cover and activity density of spiders were low in comparison to below average yields. In conclusion, increasing productivity of Miscanthus, necessary in order to meet climate change mitigation targets, diminished positive effects on biodiversity. This needs to be a matter considered when assessing the ecological impacts of developing biomass crops in comparison with other land use.

The data uploaded from this project has contributed to the following peer reviewed published paper:

Jens Dauber, Susannah Cass, Doreen Gabriel, Kate Harte, Sandra Öberg, Erin O Rourke & Jane C. Stout (in review) Yield-biodiversity trade-off in fields of Miscanthus x giganteus, GCB Bioenergy.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr.Jens Dauber
Thünen-Institut für Biodiversität

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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource Keywordspatchiness, Miscanthus, Araneae, Carabidae, vascular plants, yield
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2007-B-CD-1-S1
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeBiodiversity
Resource Availability: Non Owner-Users Cannot Download Files from This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceTime restrictions based on publishing peer reviewed articles from this research are requested.
Please contact Dr Jens Dauber for more details
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 0
Project Start Date Tuesday 1st April 2008 (01-04-2008)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Monday 1st September 2008 (01-09-2008)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Sunday 30th June 2013 (30-06-2013)
Published on SAFERWednesday 23rd October 2013 (23-10-2013)
Date of Last EditThursday 24th October 2013 at 14:33:24 (24-10-2013)
Datasets or Files Updated On Wednesday 23rd October 2013 at 22:53:56 (23-10-2013)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
Commercial Miscanthus fields, located in south-eastern Ireland within areas of high potential Miscanthus x giganteus productivity, were selected for sampling. In total 14 fields were chosen; one field per farm, established via rhizome planting on previous grassland (MG; N=7) and on previous tillage (MT; N=7) in 2006 and 2007. Field size ranged from 1.0 to 7.8 ha with an average field size of 3.67 ha. All sites were on sandy loam or loamy sand soils, pH-levels ranging from 5.3 to 6.8 and elevation ranging from 13 m to 115 m asl.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
The SIMBIOSYS Project investigated the impacts that human activity have on biodiversity and ecological functioning, and the associated benefits of biodiversity to human society, that is, ecosystem services. Three expanding sectors of enterprise were addressed in the project: (i) the cultivation of bioenergy crops; (ii) the landscaping of road corridors; and (iii) the aquaculture of sea-food. Field-based studies quantified biodiversity at the genetic, species and habitat levels under current commercial regimes, compared with traditional practices, and investigated ecosystem service delivery in all three sectors. The SIMBIOSYS Project has been a four-and-a-half-year research effort, involving six leading academics in four institutions, six PhD students, eleven research assistants at graduate and postdoctoral level, more than twenty MSc and undergraduate students and many other academic collaborators, both in Ireland and overseas.
Supplementary Information
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SIMBIOSYS Project Website: (Opens in a new window)

SIMBIOSYS Synthesis Report: (Opens in a new window)

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