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      Land-use changes, farm management and the decline of butterflies associated with semi-natural grasslands in southern Sweden

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      Nature Conservation

      Pensoft Publishers

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          Abstract

          Currently, we are experiencing biodiversity loss on different spatial scales. One of the best studied taxonomic groups in decline is the butterflies. Here, we review evidence for such declines using five systematic studies from southern Sweden that compare old butterfly surveys with the current situation. Additionally, we provide data on butterfly and burnet moth extinctions in the region’s counties. In some local areas, half of the butterfly fauna has been lost during the last 60-100 years. In terms of extinctions, counties have lost 2-10 butterfly and burnet moth species. Land use has changed markedly with key butterfly habitats such as hay meadows disappearing at alarming rates. Grazed, mixed open woodlands have been transformed into dense coniferous forests and clear-cuts and domestic grazers have been relocated from woodlands to arable fields and semi-natural grasslands. Ley has increased rapidly and is used for bale silage repeatedly during the season. Overall, the changed and intensified land use has markedly reduced the availability of nectar resources in the landscape. Species that decline in Sweden are strongly decreasing or already extinct in other parts of Europe. Many typical grassland species that were numerous in former times have declined severely; among those Hesperia comma, Lycaena virgaureae, Lycaena hippothoe, Argynnis adippe, and Polyommatus semiargus. Also, species associated with open woodlands and wetlands such as, Colias palaeno, Boloria euphrosyne and the glade-inhabiting Leptidea sinapis have all decreased markedly. Current management practise and EU Common Agricultural Policy rules favour intensive grazing on the remaining semi-natural grasslands, with strong negative effects on butterfly diversity. Abandoned grasslands are very common in less productive areas of southern Sweden and these habitats may soon become forests. There is an urgent need for immediate action to preserve unfertilized, mown and lightly grazed grasslands. It is also crucial to encourage that management of abandoned grasslands resumes before it is too late. In order to mitigate risks of further species loss and to work towards recovery of threatened butterfly populations using best known practises, we recommend twelve types of management measures favourable for many butterflies.

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          The need for evidence-based conservation.

          Much of current conservation practice is based upon anecdote and myth rather than upon the systematic appraisal of the evidence, including experience of others who have tackled the same problem. We suggest that this is a major problem for conservationists and requires a rethinking of the manner in which conservation operates. There is an urgent need for mechanisms that review available information and make recommendations to practitioners. We suggest a format for web-based databases that could provide the required information in accessible form.
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            How effective are European agri-environment schemes in conserving and promoting biodiversity?

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              Mixed biodiversity benefits of agri-environment schemes in five European countries.

              Agri-environment schemes are an increasingly important tool for the maintenance and restoration of farmland biodiversity in Europe but their ecological effects are poorly known. Scheme design is partly based on non-ecological considerations and poses important restrictions on evaluation studies. We describe a robust approach to evaluate agri-environment schemes and use it to evaluate the biodiversity effects of agri-environment schemes in five European countries. We compared species density of vascular plants, birds, bees, grasshoppers and crickets, and spiders on 202 paired fields, one with an agri-environment scheme, the other conventionally managed. In all countries, agri-environment schemes had marginal to moderately positive effects on biodiversity. However, uncommon species benefited in only two of five countries and species listed in Red Data Books rarely benefited from agri-environment schemes. Scheme objectives may need to differentiate between biodiversity of common species that can be enhanced with relatively simple modifications in farming practices and diversity or abundance of endangered species which require more elaborate conservation measures.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Conservation
                NC
                Pensoft Publishers
                1314-3301
                1314-6947
                November 18 2013
                November 18 2013
                : 6
                : 31-48
                Article
                10.3897/natureconservation.6.5205
                © 2013

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