Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Unkempt Weedy Land Unintentionally Boosts Wildlife

Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Parts of the farm landscape that look overgrown and ‘scruffy’ are more important than they first appear in supporting wildlife.

The findings stem from an intensive study of an organic farm in Somerset by a team of scientists focussing on the complex ways in which animals and plants interact. First, the team, made up by researchers at the universities of Hull and Bristol and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, created one of the world’s largest terrestrial food-webs – a what-eats-what guide to the food-chain, and then developed a method of predicting what would happen to the whole food-web when habitats were lost. They found that many types of insects and other animals have food sources in the apparently ‘scruffier’ parts of the farm such as field corners, the edges of farmyards and bits of ‘wasteland’ where old tractors and broken machinery slowly rust away.

The research, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), also allowed the team to identify when different animal species would be made extinct by the loss of particular habitats, and which plants are the most critical in sustaining animal life.

Dr Darren Evans from the University of Hull, the lead-author of the paper, said: “This research has shown us how the biodiversity of a particular area can be affected by changes to its habitat. We discovered that the small patches of unkempt and weedy areas on a farm are actually hugely beneficial in supporting local ecosystems. Indeed, they even benefit animals that could benefit farmers by providing pollination and natural pest control.”

Dr Michael Pocock, a team member at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said: “We found that the important food plants for many animals are found in multiple habitats on the farm boosting farmland wildlife resilience. In other words, if a farmer removes mature hedgerows and the plants this habitat contains, most animals could (in theory) survive because the plants are found in other parts of the farm. Our new analytical approach allows us to test which habitats are disproportionately most important and ‘rough ground’ – like the unkempt field corners – are most important of all.”

Project leader Professor Jane Memmott from the University of Bristol said: “Essentially, in unkempt patches of the countryside there are a wide range of plants that many would regard as weeds, which are an important food source for many animals. There certainly seems to be a case for 'doing nothing' in these habitats. Farmers may even gain by having these scruffy areas because they support so many beneficial animals, such as bees.”

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Scientific News
Photosynthesis Gene Could Help Crops Grow in Adverse Conditions
A gene that helps plants to remain healthy during times of stress has been identified by researchers at Oxford University.
Pancreatic Cancer Stem Cells Could be "Suffocated" by Anti-diabetic Drug
A new study shows that pancreatic cancer stem cells (PancSCs) are virtually addicted to oxygen-based metabolism, and could be “suffocated” with a drug already used to treat diabetes.
Scientists Learn How to Predict Plant Size
VIB and UGent scientists have developed a new method which allows them to predict the final size of a plant while it is still a seedling.
Scientists Home In On Origin Of Human, Chimpanzee Facial Differences
A study of species-specific regulation of gene expression in chimps and humans has identified regions important in human facial development and variation.
Nanoporous Gold Sponge Makes Pathogen Detector
Sponge-like nanoporous gold could be key to new devices to detect disease-causing agents in humans and plants, according to UC Davis researchers.
Genetic Manipulation for Algal Biofuel Production
Studies of the genes involved in oil synthesis in microalgae allow scientists to use a gene promoter to increase algal production of triacylglycerols, which in turn enhances potential biofuel yields.
Phosphorous Fertilizer
UD researchers identify behaviors of nanoparticle that shows promise as nanofertilizer.
Marijuana Genome Unraveled
A study by Canadian researchers is providing a clearer picture of the evolutionary history and genetic organization of cannabis, a step that could have agricultural, medical and legal implications for this valuable crop.
Grape Waste Could Make Competitive Biofuel
The solid waste left over from wine-making could make a competitive biofuel, University of Adelaide researchers have found.
Accelerating Forage Breeding to Boost Livestock Productivity
International expert skill-sets in genomics and bioinformatics enhance our capacity to breed improved forages for Africa.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos