Does extensive grazing benefit butterflies in coastal dunes?

  • Published source details Wallis-DeVries M.F. & Raemakers I. (2001) Does extensive grazing benefit butterflies in coastal dunes?. Restoration Ecology, 9, 179-188.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Employ areas of semi-natural habitat for rough grazing (includes salt marsh, lowland heath, bog, fen)

Action Link
Butterfly and Moth Conservation
  1. Employ areas of semi-natural habitat for rough grazing (includes salt marsh, lowland heath, bog, fen)

    A replicated, site comparison study in 1992–1996 in 22 calcareous coastal dunes in the Netherlands (WallisDeVries & Raemakers 2001) found that grazed sites had a higher abundance of some butterfly species than unmanaged sites or areas managed by cutting, but management type did not affect species richness. In 1996, the abundance of two out of 13 species was higher at grazed sites (small copper Lycaena phlaeas: 14 individuals/site; Queen of Spain fritillary Issoria lathonia: 62 individuals/site) than at unmanaged (small copper: 4; Queen of Spain fritillary: 23 individuals/site) or cut sites (small copper: 1; Queen of Spain fritillary: 4 individuals/site). Two other species were more abundant at grazed (small tortoiseshell Aglais urticae: 4; painted lady Vanessa cardui: 22 individuals/site) or unmanaged sites (small tortoiseshell: 5; painted lady: 22 individuals/site) than at sites managed by cutting (small tortoiseshell: 1; painted lady: 2 individuals/site). Brown argus Aricia agestis occurred more frequently in grazed (34% of sites) than in unmanaged (19%) or cut (11%) sites. The remaining eight species had similar abundances in grazed, unmanaged and cut sites (data not presented). Species richness was also similar between grazed (17 species/site), unmanaged (17 species/site) and cut (15 species/site) areas. Over four years, the total abundance of the 20 most common butterflies (out of 35 recorded) increased in grazed and unmanaged sites, but decreased in sites managed by cutting (data not presented). Eleven coastal dunes had been grazed year-round by cattle or ponies at low density (0.05–0.26 animals/ha/year) since 1983–1992, an additional four dunes were cut once/year in late July and a further seven were unmanaged. From April–October 1992–1996, butterflies were surveyed weekly along a 1-km transect at each site.

    (Summarised by: Andew Bladon)

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