Based on their research in Japan, Kei Uchida and colleagues, highlight why traditional land-use practices need to be upheld if we are to support biodiversity and rare species in semi-natural grasslands.

We live in an era of rapidly changing land use. Semi-natural grasslands on the margins of agricultural lands were previously maintained by traditional extensive management practices. But, more recently, a decline in traditional land-use practices has resulted in a loss of plant diversity. Understanding the relationships between evolutionary metrics and land-use change could be crucial to future global biodiversity.

In our research, we demonstrate that low-abundance species are more evolutionarily distinct compared to high-abundance species. We show that the loss of phylogenetic diversity, and especially of rare species with high value of phylogenetic distinctiveness, has resulted in non-random community disassembly. Furthermore, our results found that traditional land use maintains the highest phylogenetic diversity.

In our article, we argue that, in order to maintain biodiversity in semi-natural grasslands, traditional management practices should be encouraged over intensification and simple abandonment. Government agencies should adopt policies that encourage the maintenance of traditional practices in rural Japan, and elsewhere where the combination of land consolidation and abandonment are important conservation issues.

Read the full article, Non‐random loss of phylogenetically distinct rare species degrades phylogenetic diversity in semi‐natural grasslands, in Journal of Applied Ecology.