, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 139-153
Date: 15 Sep 2007

Importance of boreal grasslands in Sweden for butterfly diversity and effects of local and landscape habitat factors

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A widespread decline in biodiversity in agro-ecosystems has been reported for several groups of organisms in Western Europe. The butterfly fauna was studied in 60 selected semi-natural grasslands in a coniferous-dominated boreal landscape in south-eastern Sweden. The aim was to investigate how butterfly assemblages were affected by the amount of semi-natural grasslands in the surrounding landscape. Furthermore, we wanted to determine if semi-natural grasslands in boreal landscapes harboured species otherwise declining in other parts of Europe. For each study site, the amounts of semi-natural grasslands in the landscape within radii of 500, 2,000 and 5,000 m were studied. Nine local habitat factors were also recorded. Only the amount of semi-natural grasslands within a 5,000 m radius could explain a significant part of the variation in butterfly composition, but there was no clear relationship between the amount of semi-natural grassland and butterfly diversity. Instead, this study showed that local habitat quality was very important for butterfly diversity at individual sites. Flower abundance, sward height and herb composition were the most important local factors. Patches surrounded by a small amount of semi-natural grasslands had high butterfly diversity, contrary to expectations. This may be explained by the fact that forest habitat provides a matrix with several features suitable for butterflies. The butterfly fauna was rich in species representative of low-productivity grasslands, species that are declining in other countries in Western Europe.