Dramatic decline in globally threatened Danube clouded yellow Colias myrmidone linked to the 'meadow management' agri-environment scheme in the White Carpathian Mountains, the Czech Republic

  • Published source details Konvicka M., Benes J., Cizek O., Kopecek F., Konvicka O. & Vitaz L. (2008) How too much care kills species: Grassland reserves, agri-environmental schemes and extinction of Colias myrmidone (Lepidoptera : Pieridae) from its former stronghold. Journal of Insect Conservation, 12, 519-525


The Danube clouded yellow Colias myrmidone, a butterfly of species-rich grasslands, is globally threatened and protected by the European Habitats Directive. In the Czech Republic, it declined from the 1950s onwards and by 1994, was restricted to the White Carpathian Mountains on the border with Slovakia. This study reports the results of a systematic butterfly survey on grasslands in the area, following widespread uptake of agri-environment schemes in 2004.

A dense network of grassland reserves, covering over 2,457 ha in total, has been protected in the White Carpathian Mountains, Czech Republic, since the 1990s. These were traditionally managed with a single early summer cut and subsequent light grazing.

After accession to the European Union in 2004, most grassland in the White Carpathians - almost all grassland outside reserves and 86% (2,102 ha) of the reserve area - moved to management under agri-environment schemes. The most widely applied option, ‘meadow management’, required a minimum of two cuts per year, each within a specified two week period (late June/early July and early August), and a minimum stocking rate of 0.4 animals per hectare. There were penalties for not applying this to at least 97% of each land unit.
A systematic butterfly survey of the area, covering one in 16 atlas grid cells, was carried out in 2004, 2005 and 2006, with two to six visits per site each year.

The survey showed a dramatic decline in Danube clouded yellow numbers in the White Carpathians, from being regularly recorded before 2002 (2,345 records from 1995-2002) to 11 records out of 15,842 for all butterflies in 2004, and a single record in 2006 (just two individuals). Sightings in 2005 and 2006 were from one site, an abandoned pasture, not a grassland reserve.

The decline in the Danube clouded yellow was blamed on the widespread synchronisation and enhanced intensity of management caused by the agri-environment scheme requirements (97% of grasslands under the scheme were mown in just two weeks, by machine rather than by hand). Both cutting periods had adverse effects on the butterfly’s life cycle, causing larval mortality in the first generation and reducing egg-laying opportunities for the second generation.

Note: If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper, the abstract of which can be viewed here.

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