Farming practices and biodiversity: Evidence from a Mediterranean semi-extensive system on the island of Lemnos (North Aegean, Greece)

J Environ Manage. 2022 Feb 1:303:114131. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2021.114131. Epub 2021 Nov 24.


The management of agroecosystems affects biodiversity at all levels from genetic to food-web complexity. Low-input farming systems support higher levels of genetic, species and habitat diversity than high-input, industrial ones. In Greece, as in other Mediterranean countries, the role of traditional farming practices has been underlined in studies concerning conservation in agricultural landscapes. With this study, we aim to provide evidence for the potential of semi-extensive farming for biodiversity conservation at landscape-scale, focusing on Lemnos, a medium-sized island in the North Aegean. Evidence was gathered by species- and community-level local-scale surveys on various trophic levels (vascular plants, arthropods, birds). The surveys took place in 2018 and 2019 in 25 sampling areas comprising 106 plots of 100 m2 (vascular plants, arthropods) and 57 points where bird species were recorded. The plots were classified into three landscape types: mosaic agriculture, mixed rangelands and uniform rangelands. The relevés of Lemnos farmlands were assigned to plant communities of 18 phytosociological alliances, grouped into 12 classes. The most abundant arthropods were Coleoptera, Chilopoda, and Hymenoptera, followed by Opiliones and Isopoda, while 133 different bird species were recorded in total, including the recording for the first time on the island of five species. Farming on Lemnos is rather extensive compared to most agricultural landscapes of Europe. Our approach has demonstrated that, given the geographic characteristics of the area, the measured data reveal very high biodiversity. Our explorative findings suggest that moderate seasonal grazing, the mixed habitat mosaic with ecotones, fallow and stubble fields at the landscape scale, and the small size of fields, the kinds of crop, and farm-scale crop diversification, like mixed cultivation and crop rotation, are key practices supporting this diversity. These explorative findings are considered as a first step providing the baseline for future assessments. A wider effort, for systematic evaluation of the impacts of farming practices to biodiversity, is required, as part of a subsidized agri-environmental scheme and/or through a market-oriented product certification system for the area.

Keywords: Agri-environment scheme; Arable farming; Arthropods; Avifauna; Flora; Lemnos Island; Mediterranean rangeland; Monitoring; Traditional farming system.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Animals
  • Biodiversity*
  • Ecosystem
  • Farms
  • Greece