Impacts of farming systems on landscape heterogeneity in Southern Saskatchewan cropland
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Organic farms have been recognized to have higher biodiversity than conventional farms, but it is unclear if organic farms are conserving more perennial habitat in their fields than conventional farms under large scale Prairie cropping systems. This study aims to determine whether landscape heterogeneity differs between organically managed cropland and conventionally managed cropland in the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan. A total of 71 pairs of adjacent organic and conventional fields were selected. Mixed Perennial Vegetation, Shelterbelts, Cultivated Lowland and Cultivated Upland were digitized using aerial photos from 2008, 2012 and 2017 to quantify landscape heterogeneity. Overall, a higher average area of Mixed Perennial Vegetation in organic (9.31%) fields compared with conventional (6.06%) fields, and was related to a larger mean patch size on organic (1.82 ha) compared to conventional (1.50 ha) fields. This study highlighted the importance of organic farming in maintaining agricultural landscape heterogeneity, but differences were ecoregion-dependent.