Low-intensity agricultural landscapes in Transylvania support high butterfly diversity: Implications for conservation

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


European farmland biodiversity is declining due to land use changes towards agricultural intensification or abandonment. Some Eastern European farming systems have sustained traditional forms of use, resulting in high levels of biodiversity. However, global markets and international policies now imply rapid and major changes to these systems. To effectively protect farmland biodiversity, understanding landscape features which underpin species diversity is crucial. Focusing on butterflies, we addressed this question for a cultural-historic landscape in Southern Transylvania, Romania. Following a natural experiment, we randomly selected 120 survey sites in farmland, 60 each in grassland and arable land. We surveyed butterfly species richness and abundance by walking transects with four repeats in summer 2012. We analysed species composition using Detrended Correspondence Analysis. We modelled species richness, richness of functional groups, and abundance of selected species in response to topography, woody vegetation cover and heterogeneity at three spatial scales, using generalised linear mixed effects models. Species composition widely overlapped in grassland and arable land. Composition changed along gradients of heterogeneity at local and context scales, and of woody vegetation cover at context and landscape scales. The effect of local heterogeneity on species richness was positive in arable land, but negative in grassland. Plant species richness, and structural and topographic conditions at multiple scales explained species richness, richness of functional groups and species abundances. Our study revealed high conservation value of both grassland and arable land in low-intensity Eastern European farmland. Besides grassland, also heterogeneous arable land provides important habitat for butterflies. While butterfly diversity in arable land benefits from heterogeneity by small-scale structures, grasslands should be protected from fragmentation to provide sufficiently large areas for butterflies. These findings have important implications for EU agricultural and conservation policy. Most importantly, conservation management needs to consider entire landscapes, and implement appropriate measures at multiple spatial scales.
ZeitschriftPLoS ONE
Anzahl der Seiten11
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 24.07.2014