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Ecological infrastructures across Mediterranean agroecosystems: Towards an effective tool for evaluating their ecological quality

Agricultural Systems


The development of reliable evaluation schemes is essential to assess the status of biodiversity, particularly under the current scenario of biodiversity loss across agroecosystems. In these areas, ecological infrastructures contribute heavily to enhance biodiversity and underlying services, and their contribution depends on their ecological quality. Based on the questionnaire by Boller et al. (2004) for temperate areas, we propose a reliable tool for evaluating the ecological quality of woodland patches, hedges and grass strips associated with Mediterranean agroecosystems (simplified questionnaire). Since management practices and organism composition vary across geographical regions, the implementation of evaluation tools adapted to other geographical regions is deemed necessary. The development of the simplified questionnaire followed a five-steps' approach: (i) application of the Boller's questionnaire in the field; (ii) Boller's questionnaire adaptation; (iii) development of the simplified questionnaire through the assessment and simplification of Boller's questionnaire; (iv) evaluation of the simplified questionnaire effectiveness; (v) proposal of plant indicator species associated to the different quality levels obtained from applying the simplified questionnaire as an additional tool for quality assessment that complements such questionnaire. A total of 482 ecological infrastructures were evaluated in La Rioja (Spain) using the Boller's questionnaire, and their vegetation assessed by inventorying their floristic composition. We analyzed the relationship between plant species richness, as a proxy of the overall biodiversity, and the different items included in the Boller's questionnaire. According to these results, a new questionnaire was proposed, in which only variables significantly related to plant species richness were included. Our results showed that the quality groups established when applying our simplified questionnaire were more consistent than those obtained when using the Boller's questionnaire. Overall, 35 plant species resulted as significant indicators for the four levels of quality obtained from applying the simplified questionnaire. We point out that the assessment tool based on simplified questionnaire is straightforward and easy to apply by both experts and non-experts. We also propose the simplified questionnaire development procedure as a guide to create evaluation questionnaires adapted to other ecological infrastructure types.

Author(s): Rosas-Ramos, N; Banos-Picon, L; Trivellone, V; Moretti, M; Tormos, J; Asis, JD

Journal: Agricultural Systems

Year: 2019