Study

Rapid changes in butterfly communities following the abandonment of grasslands: A case study

  • Published source details Stefanescu C., Penuelas J. & Filella I. (2009) Rapid changes in butterfly communities following the abandonment of grasslands: A case study. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 2, 261-269.

Actions

This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Cease mowing on grassland to allow early succession

Action Link
Butterfly and Moth Conservation

Cease grazing on grassland to allow early succession

Action Link
Butterfly and Moth Conservation
  1. Cease mowing on grassland to allow early succession

    A replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in 1997–2004 in six meadows in Catalonia, Spain (Stefanescu et al. 2009) found that in meadows where mowing and grazing were abandoned, grassland butterflies decreased while woodland and hedge butterflies increased, and the community became dominated by generalist species and species with fewer generations/year. Over seven years after abandonment, species which prefer grasslands declined in abundance, and species which prefer woodland and bramble hedges increased. The abundance of “generalist” butterfly species (which are able to persist in a wide range of habitats) and species with only one generation/year increased in abandoned meadows, while the abundance of “specialist” species (with specific habitat requirements) and species with multiple generations/year decreased. One grassland specialist, the silver-studded blue Plebejus argus, went extinct in some abandoned meadows. There was little change in the butterfly community in the continuously managed meadow. All data presented as model results. In 1997, six traditional hay meadows (0.55–3.71 ha) were managed normally: two were mown in June, and four were mown in June and August and grazed by cows in winter. From 1998–2004, five of the meadows were abandoned, but the sixth meadow continued to be mown in June and grazed by cattle and horses in winter. From March–September 1997–2004, butterflies were surveyed once/week along a fixed 1,122-m transect through the meadows (117–286 m/meadow), and the total number of each species recorded in each meadow each year was compared.

    (Summarised by: Andrew Bladon)

  2. Cease grazing on grassland to allow early succession

    A replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in 1997–2004 in six meadows in Catalonia, Spain (Stefanescu et al. 2009) found that in meadows where grazing and mowing were abandoned, grassland butterflies decreased while woodland and hedge butterflies increased, and the community became dominated by generalist species and species with fewer generations/year. Over seven years after abandonment, species which prefer grasslands declined in abundance, and species which prefer woodland and bramble hedges increased. The abundance of “generalist” butterfly species (which are able to persist in a wide range of habitats) and species with only one generation/year increased in abandoned meadows, while the abundance of “specialist” species (with specific habitat requirements) and species with multiple generations/year decreased. One grassland specialist, the silver-studded blue Plebejus argus, went extinct in some abandoned meadows. There was little change in the butterfly community in the continuously managed meadow. All data presented as model results. In 1997, six traditional hay meadows (0.55–3.71 ha) were managed normally: two were mown in June, and four were mown in June and August and grazed by cows in winter. From 1998–2004, five of the meadows were abandoned, but the sixth meadow continued to be mown in June and grazed by cattle and horses in winter. From March–September 1997–2004, butterflies were surveyed once/week along a fixed 1,122-m transect through the meadows (117–286 m/meadow), and the total number of each species recorded in each meadow each year was compared.

    (Summarised by: Andrew Bladon)

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