Plant and arthropod diversity patterns of maize agro-ecosystems in two grassy biomes of South Africa
Van den Berg, J.
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Intensive, large-scale cultivation has led to a postulated decrease in biodiversity worldwide, which has been ascribed to fragmentation and degradation of natural habitat bordering crop fields. Maize is the most widely planted grain crop in Grassland and Savanna Biomes of South Africa, but the effect that crop production has on surrounding species diversity and composition is unknown. This study intends to address this knowledge gap by comparing diversity patterns and species assemblages between maize fields and margins of six localities in South Africa across two biomes for plants and associated Grasslands. A total of 15,019 individuals and 824 native and exotic plant species were recorded and 39 497 individuals and 1 629 morpho-species for arthropods. Although biodiversity loss was apparent in maize fields, plant and arthropod diversity remained the same for rangeland at shorter (30–100 m) and longer (100–400 m) distances from maize fields, suggesting that distance from maize fields had no effect on biodiversity patterns beyond 30 m. Plant species assemblages were best correlated with agricultural disturbance while arthropod communities were mainly correlated with biome. Our results suggest that the crop field margins (30–100 m from field edge) were not species poor ecosystems, but were surprisingly rich in plant and arthropod diversity. Field margins may therefore be of conservation value in the agricultural landscape with a diversity of species supporting important ecosystem services