Intensive land use drives small-scale homogenization of plant- and leafhopper communities and promotes generalists

Oecologia. 2018 Feb;186(2):529-540. doi: 10.1007/s00442-017-4031-0. Epub 2017 Dec 4.


The current biodiversity decline through anthropogenic land-use not only involves local species losses, but also homogenization of communities, with a few generalist species benefitting most from human activities. Most studies assessed community heterogeneity (β-diversity) on larger scales by comparing different sites, but little is known about impacts on β-diversity within each site, which is relevant for understanding variation in the level of α-diversity, the small-scale distribution of species and associated habitat heterogeneity. To obtain our dataset with 36,899 individuals out of 117 different plant- and leafhopper (Auchenorrhyncha) species, we sampled communities of 140 managed grassland sites across Germany by quantitative vacuum suction of five 1 m2 plots on each site. Sites differed in land-use intensity as characterized by intensity of fertilization, mowing and grazing. Our results demonstrate a significant within-site homogenization of plant- and leafhopper communities with increasing land-use intensity. Correspondingly, density (- 78%) and γ-diversity (- 35%) declined, particularly with fertilization and mowing intensity. More than 34% of plant- and leafhopper species were significant losers and only 6% were winners of high land-use intensity, with abundant and widespread species being less affected. Increasing land-use intensity adversely affected dietary specialists and promoted generalist species. Our study emphasizes considerable, multifaceted effects of land-use intensification on species loss, with a few dominant generalists winning, and an emerging trend towards more homogenized assemblages. By demonstrating homogenization for the first time within sites, our study highlights that anthropogenic influences on biodiversity even occur on small scales.

Keywords: Auchenorrhyncha; Biodiversity Exploratories; Environmental niche; Grassland land-use; β-diversity.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity
  • Germany
  • Grassland*
  • Hemiptera*
  • Humans
  • Plants