Conservation Tillage Affects Species Composition But Not Species Diversity: A Comparative Study in Northern Italy

; ; ; ; ; (). Conservation Tillage Affects Species Composition But Not Species Diversity: A Comparative Study in Northern Italy. Environmental Management, 55, 2. 443-452. Peer reviewed.

Conservation Tillage Affects Species Composition But Not Species Diversity: A Comparative Study in Northern Italy

Conservation tillage (CT) is widely considered to be a practice aimed at preserving several ecosystem functions. In the literature, however, there seems to be no clear pattern with regard to its benefits on species diversity and species composition. In Northern Italy, we compared species composition and diversity of both vascular plants and Carabids under two contrasting tillage systems, i.e., CT and conventional tillage, respectively. We hypothesized a significant positive impact of CT on both species diversity and composition. We also considered the potential influence of crop type.

The tillage systems were studied under open field conditions with three types of annual crops (i.e.,maize, soybean, and winter cereals), using a split-plot design on pairs of adjacent fields. Linear mixed models were applied to test tillage system, crop, and interaction effects on diversity indices. Plant and Carabids communities were analyzed by multivariate methods (CCA). On the whole, 136 plant and 51 carabid taxa were recorded.

The two tillage systems studied did not differ in floristic or carabid diversity. Species composition, by contrast, proved to be characteristic for each combination of tillage system and crop type. In particular, CT fields were characterized by nutrient demanding weeds and the associated Carabids. The differences were especially pronounced in fields with winter cereals. The same was true for the flora and Carabids along the field boundaries. For studying the effects of CT practices on the sustainability of agro-ecosystems, therefore, the focus should be on species composition rather than on diversity measures.

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