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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: The effects management of uncropped edges of arable fields on butterfly abundance at Wytham, Oxfordshire, England

Published source details

Feber R.E., Smith H. & Macdonald D.W. (1996) The effects on butterfly abundance of the management of uncropped edges of arable fields. Journal of Applied Ecology, 33, 1191-1205


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Create uncultivated margins around intensive arable or pasture fields Farmland Conservation

A randomized, replicated study from 1989 to 1991 in Oxfordshire, UK (Feber et al. 1996) (same study as Feber et al. 1994) found that butterfly (Lepidoptera) abundance and species richness was lower in unsown, naturally generated margins (14-39 individuals, 6-9 species) than in sown wildflower margins (21-91 individuals, 7-10 species) from the second year after establishment. Spraying with herbicides (RoundupTM) and cutting during summer reduced butterfly diversity and density in the margins, but there were no such effects of cutting in spring and autumn. Both cutting in summer and spraying led to an immediate decline in the number of flowering plants directly after the treatment. In the cut margins, however, the number of flowers had increased by September when it was higher than in uncut margins. Butterflies were monitored weekly along transects from June to September 1989 and from April to September 1990 and 1991. Transects were divided into 50 m sections corresponding to the experimental plots. Monitoring was done according to standard methods and only under suitable conditions. This study was part of the same experimental set-up as Feber et al.1994, Baines et al. 1998, Bell et al. 1999, Haughton et al. 1999, Smith et al. 2010).

Plant nectar flower mixture/wildflower strips Farmland Conservation

A randomized, replicated study from 1989 to 1991 on the Oxford University Farm, Oxfordshire, UK (Feber et al. 1996) found that butterfly (Lepidoptera) abundance and species richness were higher in sown wildflower margins (21-91 individuals, 7-10 species) than in unsown, naturally generated margins (14-39 ind., 6-9 spp.) from the second year after establishment. Cutting during summer reduced butterfly diversity and density in the margins, but there were no such effects of cutting in spring and autumn. Cutting in summer also led to an immediate decline in the number of flowering plants directly after the treatment. However, the number of flowers in cut margins had increased by September when it was higher than in uncut margins. Existing field margins (0.5 m-wide) were extended by 1.5 m in October 1987. The extended margins were rotavated and either left to naturally regenerate or sown with a wildflower seed mix in March 1988. Fifty-metre-long plots were managed in one of the following ways: uncut, cut once in summer hay collected, cut spring and summer hay collected, cut spring and autumn hay collected, cut spring and summer hay left lying (unsown margins only), sprayed once a year in summer (unsown margins only). There were eight replicates of each treatment. Butterflies were monitored weekly along transects from June to September 1989 and from April to September 1990 and 1991. Transects were divided into 50 m sections corresponding to the experimental plots. This study was part of the same experimental set-up as Feber et al. 1994, Baines et al. 1998, Bell et al. 1999, Haughton et al. 1999, Smith et al. 1999, Bell et al. 2002, Smith et al. 2010.