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Seeds in farmland food-webs: Resource importance, distribution and the impacts of farm management

Pocock, Michael J.O.; Evans, Darren M.; Brooks, Joanna; Memmott, Jane


Michael J.O. Pocock

Darren M. Evans

Joanna Brooks

Jane Memmott


Whilst considerable research effort in Europe has linked agricultural intensification with dramaticdeclines of seed-feeding birds, surprisingly little is known about the wider importance of seeds in animalfood-webs. Moreover, understanding the dynamics of farmland seed food resources for species of conservationconcern is of considerable research interest.We examined the distribution of berries and soil-surface seeds in the managed and unmanaged habitatsof a 125 ha organic farm. We took soil suction-samples over a year, counted and identified all seeds,and compared abundances and species-richness between habitats. We constructed ecological networksfrom literature records and by rearing insects to investigate the importance of these seeds for insects,birds and mammals. We predicted the impacts of management on seed biomass, energy and the ecosystemservice of pest control across the whole farm.We estimated seed and berry food resources of up to 33 metric tons of biomass and 560 GJ of energy onthe farm. Potentially, more than 330 species use the seeds as a food resource, the overwhelming majorityof which are invertebrates (82%) relying predominantly on non-crop and weed species. Generally, uncultivatedsemi-natural habitats such as woodland and mature hedgerows were more species-rich and hadhigher seed biomass and energy than crop habitats throughout the year, but fallow land was disproportionatelyimportant for seeds during the summer. Models of increased management intensity revealeddeclines of up to 19% in seed biomass and energy and cascades through the network that resulted in asubstantial decrease in potentially pest-controlling parasitoids.


Pocock, M. J., Evans, D. M., Brooks, J., & Memmott, J. (2011). Seeds in farmland food-webs: Resource importance, distribution and the impacts of farm management. Biological Conservation, 144(12), 2941-2950.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 27, 2011
Online Publication Date Sep 28, 2011
Publication Date Dec 1, 2011
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Journal Biological Conservation
Print ISSN 0006-3207
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 144
Issue 12
Pages 2941-2950
Keywords Ecological networks, Habitat modification, Spatial temporal distribution, REF 2014 submission**
Public URL
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