Herbicide and fertilizers promote analogous phylogenetic responses but opposite functional responses in plant communities

Loïc Pellissier, Mary S. Wisz, Beate Strandberg, Christian Orup Damgaard

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Throughout the world, herbicides and fertilizers change species composition in agricultural communities, but how do the cumulative effects of these chemicals impact the functional and phylogenetic structure of non-targeted communities when they drift into adjacent semi-natural habitats? Based on long-term experiment we show that fertilizer and herbicides (glyphosate) have contrasting effects on functional structure, but can increase phylogenetic diversity in semi-natural plant communities. We found that an increase in nitrogen promoted an increase in the average specific leaf area and canopy height at the community level, but an increase in glyphosate promoted a decrease in those traits. Phylogenetic diversity of plant communities increased when herbicide and fertilizer were applied together, likely because functional traits facilitating plant success in those conditions were not phylogenetically conserved. Species richness also decreased with increasing levels of nitrogen and glyphosate. Our results suggest that predicting the cumulative effects of agrochemicals is more complex than anticipated due to their distinct selection of traits that may or may not be conserved phylogenetically. Precautionary efforts to mitigate drift of agricultural chemicals into semi-natural habitats are warranted to prevent unforeseeable biodiversity shifts. © 2014 IOP Publishing Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • Environmental Science (all)
    • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
    • Biodiversity
    • Ecosystems
    • Fertilizers
    • Forestry
    • Nitrogen
    • Weed control
    • Cumulative effects
    • Functional response
    • Functional structure
    • Long-term experiments
    • Phylogenetic diversity
    • Phylogenetic structures
    • Species composition
    • Specific leaf area
    • Herbicides
    • agrochemical
    • canopy architecture
    • fertilizer application
    • functional change
    • herbicide
    • leaf area
    • phylogenetics
    • plant community
    • precautionary principle
    • species richness


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