GREENVEINS explores the relationship between biodiversity, landscape structure and land use intensity in the agricultural landscape.
The primary objective of the project is to define vulnerability* of biodiversity in this landscape type: at what combinations of landscape structure and land use intensity does it occur.
(*at vulnerability, slight landscape changes will cause a large collapse of biodiversity levels).
Despite the vast urban expansion during the last century, agricultural landscapes still cover more than half of the European Union surface area.
Consequently, the influence of the agricultural landscape on biodiversity is enormous.
Agricultural landscapes, especially small scale extensively used ones, can have high biodiversity levels themselves and may also influence biodiversity in other landscapes by acting as the connecting element between them.
However, biodiversity in the agricultural landscapes of Europe is threatened.
In the 20th century both intensification of land use and a decreasing amount of (semi) natural elements (the Green Veining) have caused a dramatic change in the agricultural landscapes all over Europe, accompanied by a large decline in biodiversity levels.
At the moment, little is known about the relationship between landscape changes and biodiversity loss. Many species can still be present in a landscape even though the conditions for their persistence have become marginal or even have disappeared altogether. Since many species in the agricultural landscape seem to operate on about the same spatial scale level, a 'vulnerability or danger zone' for biodiversity may exist. If this is the case, further intensification of land use or loss of Green Veining might (eventually) cause a collapse of biodiversity.
For a sustainable exploitation of agricultural areas in terms of biodiversity, it is paramount to know how to keep landscapes in the safe zone or how to get them out of danger whenever their biodiversity has become vulnerable.
We will collect data on 26 Landscape Test Sites (LTS), spread over the 7 participating countries in north-western Europe. These LTSes are spread over the occurring land use intensity and Green Veining ranges as well as could be achieved (scheme).
We collect biodiversity data on the species richness, functional group and metapopulation functioning levels.
Flora and fauna data is collected by sampling at random locations.
Metapopulation data is collected by the inventory of habitat and absence/presence as well as by indirect (genetic analysis) and direct (e.g. capture-recapture) exchange surveys.
Landscape data is collected from aerial photographs and through field surveys.
Analysis will be aimed at establishing loss curves for several aspects of biodiversity in relation to Green Veining and land use intensity. Combined results will be used to construct a theoretical model that describes the effects of changes in landscape structure and intensity of use on biodiversity.
The project especially concentrates on Green Veining (all natural and semi-natural elements in the agricultural landscape) because of it's potential as a major indicator for biodiversity levels (Green Veining is an easy descriptor of landscape structure, while both quality and amount of it are correlated with land use intensity).