Agri-environment schemes and butterflies: the utilisation of 6 m grass margins

  • Published source details Field R.G., Gardiner T., Mason C.F. & Hill J. (2005) Agri-environment schemes and butterflies: the utilisation of 6 m grass margins. Biodiversity and Conservation, 14, 1969-1976.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Plant grass buffer strips/margins around arable or pasture fields

Action Link
Farmland Conservation
  1. Plant grass buffer strips/margins around arable or pasture fields

    A replicated, controlled study in 1997-2000 in Essex, UK (Field et al. 2005) found that total butterfly (Lepidoptera) abundance, but not species richness, was higher in 6 m-wide grass margins (average 45.8 butterflies/km/visit) (study did not distinguish between sown and naturally regenerated grass margins) than in control cropped sections (average 20.9). Of the ‘key’ grassland butterfly species, only the meadow brown Maniola jurtina had greater abundance in grass margins (average 18.9 butterflies/km/visit) than in controls (average 8.9). Significantly more butterflies, including M. jurtina, were found in a sown grass margin established adjacent to a permanent set-aside field than on all other margin types. Sown grass margins (not adjacent to permanent set-aside fields) had the lowest abundance of gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus, skipper Thymelicus spp. and large skipper Ochlodes venata butterflies. Five grass margins were established on two farms according to the requirements of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in 1996 and sown with grass seed mixtures (6 or 9 species). In addition, three margins were established by natural regeneration on one farm, and on both farms one arable field edge without margins was used as a control. Butterfly abundance was monitored weekly along transects from late June to early August 1997-2000. All butterflies were recorded, but special note was taken of ‘key’ grassland species: meadow brown, gatekeeper, small skipper Thymelicus sylvestris, Essex skipper T. lineola, and large skipper. This study is part of the same experimental set-up as Field & Mason 2005, Field et al. 2006, Field et al. 2007a, Field et al. 2007b.

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