Landscape Makers and Landscape Takers: Links between Farming Systems and Landscape Patterns along an Intensification Gradient


Context Agricultural intensification is a leading cause of landscape homogenization, with negative consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem services. Conserving or promoting heterogeneity requires a detailed understanding of how farm management affects, and is affected by, landscape characteristics. Objectives We assessed relationships between farming systems and landscape characteristics, hypothesising that less-intensive systems act as landscape takers, by adapting management to landscape constraints, whereas more intensive systems act as landscape makers, by changing the landscape to suit farming needs. Methods We mapped dominant farming systems in a region of southern Portugal: traditional cereal-grazed fallow rotations; specialization on annual crops; and specialization on either cattle or sheep. We estimated landscape metrics in 241 1-km2 buffers representing the farming systems, and analysed variation among and within systems using multivariate statistics and beta diversity metrics. Results Landscape composition varied among systems, with dominance by either annual crops (Crop system) or pastures (Sheep), or a mixture between the two (Traditional and Cattle). There was a marked regional gradient of local landscape heterogeneity, but this contributed little to variation among systems.

Landscape Ecology