Evaluating the Impacts of Agricultural Development on Landscape Scale Ecosystem Stability in a European Context

Gillam, William Joseph
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University of Guelph

In the face of growing human populations, the global area of agricultural lands is expected to rise by 10 million km^2 in the next 50 years, resulting in natural systems that are highly disrupted. Beyond agriculture, ecosystems provide valuable goods and services to humanity so it is important to study the landscape dynamics of agriculture. Using the environmental history of Europe derived from pollen records, this research evaluated the impacts of agricultural development on landscape scale stability. Rates of change, biodiversity, and species composition were calculated for 184 pollen records across Europe that contained evidence of agricultural development. The results indicate that rates of change rose substantially following agricultural development, indicating a loss in stability. Landscape instability is likely resultant from two mechanisms: direct changes in landscape composition from agricultural intensification and abandonment, and ecological changes resulting from altering landscape composition such as changes in species composition.

Agricultural Development, Landscape Ecology, Landscape Stability, European Agriculture, Biodiversity, Pollen Records, Scale