People’s appreciation of colorful field margins in intensively used arable landscapes and the conservation of plants and invertebrates

Geert De Snoo*, Jerry van Dijk, William Vletter, C.J.M. Musters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Sown field margins can improve the conservation of biodiversity in rural areas and can contribute to the aesthetics of rural landscapes, thereby potentially increasing public support for agri-environmental measures. However, these two functions do not necessarily coincide. This raises the question whether field margins that are appreciated for their contribution to landscape aesthetics also deliver on the conservation of biodiversity. We conducted choice experiments with different groups of citizens and collected biodiversity data in the Netherlands, to investigate if the number of colors and vegetation cover in field margins increased respondents’ appreciation for them, and how these visual cues correlated with taxonomic diversity and abundance of plants and invertebrates in those field margins. Using manipulated photos, we also assessed whether the presence of colorful field margins in a range of different rural landscapes increased respondents’ appreciation of those landscapes. Respondents preferred colorful margins with high vegetation cover and showed a preference for green rural landscapes with colorful field margins. The presence of colorful field margins increased landscape aesthetics most in the least appreciated landscapes. The number of colors correlated positively with the diversity of sown and spontaneous plant species, and overall invertebrate abundance and abundance of predatory invertebrates, but was not related to invertebrate diversity. Our results show for the first time that colorful field margins support both public appreciation and diversity of plants and abundance of ground-dwelling invertebrates, with potential advantages to farmers in terms of natural pest control, at least in intensively used agricultural landscapes. However, management practices to maintain a high number of colors over time may be detrimental for invertebrate diversity. To optimize the different functions, we recommend that field margin layouts should consist of a perennial part that is allowed to develop over time, in combination with a part that is managed for its colorfulness.
Original languageEnglish
Article number80
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalAgronomy for Sustainable Development
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2023


  • Arable landscape
  • Biodiversity
  • Citizens appreciation
  • Field margins
  • Vegetation colors
  • Vegetation cover


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