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Land-use, environment, and their impact on butterfly populations in a mountainous pastoral landscape: individual species distribution and abundance

Abstract

Butterflies were studied, at the species level, in 47 mountain meadows in a 1.5 × 1.6 km study area in the Picos de Europa National Park, Spain. Butterfly transects were carried out on nine occasions in June and July 2004 and the summed data used in binary logistic and stepwise multiple regression analyses using 28 biotic and abiotic parameters. Models were created for 37 species in total: 24 using logistic regression and 24 with multiple regression; models from both approaches were obtained for 11 species. Abiotic factors dominated many analyses with factors such as proximity to water, aspect and altitude being prominent. Abiotic factors may reflect acceptable minimum conditions for presence of a species and interact with biotic factors to determine habitat quality. Classification of the meadows as either under hay or summer grazing management, or ‘winter grazing or abandoned’ was not particularly revealing probably due to inherent variability in management intensity within meadows and degree of abandonment. Features that reflected management influences, lack of management, disturbance, and sward condition featured in many analyses. Whilst many meadows are still actively managed, features that can be related to abandonment are evident for many species. The early stages of relaxation of management intensity can be positive for butterflies, but if management is not restored losses are likely as succession proceeds. The implications of this are briefly discussed.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the Earthwatch Institute for funding; and to the large number of Earthwatch volunteers, and MSc students from Staffordshire University who helped us with fieldwork; to our employers for allowing us to participate in the research; to Profs Bob Bunce and Francisco Pineda for helping us frame the project; to Graham Smith for GIS processing; and to the Picos de Europa National Park and the Government of Cantabria for giving us permission to work in the Park. We thank Dr Tim Sparks for statistical advice. We are indebted to National Park staff for their help and support.

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Correspondence to J. W. Dover.

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Dover, J.W., Rescia, A., Fungariño, S. et al. Land-use, environment, and their impact on butterfly populations in a mountainous pastoral landscape: individual species distribution and abundance. J Insect Conserv 15, 207–220 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10841-010-9338-7

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Keywords

  • Hay
  • Grazing
  • Management
  • Abandoned
  • Grassland
  • Prime butterfly area
  • High nature value farmland
  • Land-use