The significance of spatial fragmentation of land ownership for occurrence of scrubs on semi-natural grasslands

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Context: Traditionally, studies of habitat fragmentation have focused on spatial isolation of habitats. Meanwhile, the role of fragmentation of land ownership and hence of parcelization of habitats remains, particularly in relation to management of semi-natural grasslands, not well understood. Objective: We propose that, especially in a Danish context, fragmentation of land ownership leads to parcelization of semi-natural grassland habitats. This results in small parcel sizes, obstructing cost effective management in terms of grazing and mowing and consequently leads to encroachment of scrubs, threatening biodiversity. Methods: We applied national, spatially explicit information about land ownership, management, semi-natural grasslands and vegetation height to examine the relationships between parcel size, management and the proportion of scrubs on semi-natural grasslands. Results: Results from a regression analysis show that parcel size is significantly negatively related to proportion of scrubs; i.e. small parcels are associated with higher proportions of scrubs compared to large parcels. The results also show that the size of ownership parcels has a stronger explanatory power for the proportion of scrub compared to the size of habitat parcels, where ownership boundaries are not taken into account. Furthermore, parcels, with legal obligations for management, have significantly lower proportion of scrubs compared to parcels without management obligations. Conclusions: Efforts for conservation of and improvement of biodiversity on semi-natural grassland should pay increasing attention towards the importance of fragmentation of land ownership and parcelization of habitats. Our results point at the need for cross-farm cooperation to secure continuous grassland management to prevent scrub encroachment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLandscape Ecology
Pages (from-to)2031-2044
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Research areas

  • Denmarks, Fragmentation, Land ownership, Parcel size, Scrubs, Semi-natural grassland

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