Strategies for conserving plant diversity in agroecosystems generally focus on either expanding land area in non-crop habitat or enhancing diversity within crop fields through changes in within-field management practices. In this study, we compare effects on landscapescale species richness from such land-sharing or land-sparing strategies. We collected data in arable field, grassland, pasture, and forest habitat types (1.6 ha sampled per habitat type) across a 100-km2 region of farmland in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA. We fitted species-area relationships (SARs) for each habitat type and then combined extrapolations from the curves with estimates of community overlap to estimate richness in a 314.5-ha landscape. We then modified these baseline estimates by adjusting parameters in the SAR models to compare potential effects of land-sharing and land-sparing conservation practices on landscape richness. We found that species richness of the habitat types showed a strong inverse relationship to the relative land area of each type in the region, with 89 species in arable fields (66.5% of total land area), 153 in pastures (6.7%), 196 in forests (5.2%), and 213 in grasslands (2.9%). Relative to the baseline scenario, major changes in the richness of arable fields produced gains in landscapescale richness comparable to a conversion of 3.1% of arable field area into grassland habitat. Sensitivity analysis of our model indicated that relative gains from land sparing would be greatest in landscapes with a low amount of non-crop habitat in the baseline scenario, but that in more complex landscapes land sharing would provide greater gains. These results indicate that the majority of plant species in agroecosystems are found in small fragments of non-crop habitat and suggest that, especially in landscapes with little non-crop habitat, richness can be more readily conserved through land-sparing approaches.
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