Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Assessing conservation value and restoration priorities in an agroecological landscape.

Abstract

The integration of agricultural and natural ecological systems is increasingly viewed as an essential step toward achieving conservation goals, from local to global scales. For this study, we assessed the ecological conditions and conservation value of upland habitats on six Wisconsin potato farms participating in an ecolabel program that requires the implementation of ecological management plans on non-crop lands. Our objective was to determine how natural and restorable-to-natural elements of the landscape related to adjacent intensively managed agricultural fields, in order to prioritize restoration targets and activities. We compared the plant species richness, floristic quality, and vegetation structure between three dominant upland habitats: woodlands, pine plantations, and weedy fields. We recorded 205 native plant species across all sites (approximately 25% of the regional native flora), indicating that habitat patches surrounding agricultural lands can offer substantial conservation value. Woodlands had the highest average conservation value (mean of 43.8 native species per site) and weedy fields the lowest (mean of 6.3 native species per site). Habitat edges were characterized by a higher frequency of both exotic and prairie-savanna indicator species, representing a unique assemblage of species warranting special consideration for conservation and restoration. We recommend that restoration efforts on this and similar agroecological systems prioritize woodland edges and weedy corners, where prescribed fire, native plant seeding, and invasive species removal could produce significant conservation gains while reducing agricultural weed colonization of cultivated fields.