Environmental Management

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 436–446 | Cite as

History Matters: Relating Land-Use Change to Butterfly Species Occurrence



Western European landscapes have drastically changed since the 1950s, with agricultural intensifications and the spread of urban settlements considered the most important drivers of this land-use/land-cover change. Losses of habitat for fauna and flora have been a direct consequence of this development. In the present study, we relate butterfly occurrence to land-use/land-cover changes over five decades between 1951 and 2000. The study area covers the entire Swiss territory. The 10 explanatory variables originate from agricultural statistics and censuses. Both state as well as rate was used as explanatory variables. Species distribution data were obtained from natural history collections. We selected eight butterfly species: four species occur on wetlands and four occur on dry grasslands. We used cluster analysis to track land-use/land-cover changes and to group communes based on similar trajectories of change. Generalized linear models were applied to identify factors that were significantly correlated with the persistence or disappearance of butterfly species. Results showed that decreasing agricultural areas and densities of farms with more than 10 ha of cultivated land are significantly related with wetland species decline, and increasing densities of livestock seem to have favored disappearance of dry grassland species. Moreover, we show that species declines are not only dependent on land-use/land-cover states but also on the rates of change; that is, the higher the transformation rate from small to large farms, the higher the loss of dry grassland species. We suggest that more attention should be paid to the rates of landscape change as feasible drivers of species change and derive some management suggestions.


Butterfly species Cluster analysis Generalized linear model Historical data analysis Natural history collection data Rates of landscape change 



This study was supported by a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (application No. 4048-064460) in the program “Landscapes and Habitats of the Alps” (NRP 48). We are thankful to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office for providing most recent census data. We thank Christoph Buser from the Seminar for Statistics of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) for constructive discussion on the statistical part and appreciate helpful comments of Janine Bolliger on an earlier draft of this article. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers who provided constructive comments on the manuscript and to Thomas Edwards for linguistic corrections.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Lütolf
    • 1
    • 2
  • Antoine Guisan
    • 2
  • Felix Kienast
    • 1
  1. 1. Swiss Federal Research Institute WSLBirmensdorfSwitzerland
  2. 2.Laboratory for Conservation Biology (LBC), Department of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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