Detecting patterns of species co-occurrence is among the main tasks of plant community ecology. Arable plant communities are important elements of agroecosystems, because they support plant and animal biodiversity and provide ecosystem services. These plant communities are shaped by both agricultural and environmental drivers. The pressure of intensive agriculture worldwide has caused the decline of many characteristic arable species and communities. Italy is the European country where arable plant biodiversity is the best preserved. In this study, we assessed the patterns of co-occurrence of rare and threatened arable plants in 106 plots of winter arable vegetation located from Piedmont to Calabria, in the mainland part of the country. For this purpose, we based our investigation on the analysis of a recently acquired dataset and on the European list of rare and threatened arable plants. We highlight how different species of conservation interest tend to occur in the same community. On the other hand, generalist and more competitive taxa show similar patterns of co-occurrence. We suggest that single species of conservation value could be suitable indicators of a well-preserved community. On the other hand, to be effective, conservation strategies should target the whole community, rather than single species.
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