Changes in butterfly movements along a gradient of land use in farmlands of Transylvania (Romania)
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Agricultural transformation and increased land use intensity often lead to simplified landscapes and biodiversity loss. For animals, one possible mechanism underpinning biodiversity loss in agricultural landscapes is the disruption of movements. The disruption of movements may explain, for example, why butterfly communities in agricultural landscapes are often dominated by generalist species with high mobility.
Here, we investigated how the movement patterns of butterflies characterised by different levels of mobility changed along a gradient of agricultural land use intensity.
To this end, we studied 15 landscapes in low-intensity farmland in Central Romania, measuring 10 ha each and covering a gradient of landscape heterogeneity and woody vegetation cover. In these landscapes, we tracked movements of 563 individuals of nine butterfly species.
Our findings showed that overall movement activities differed significantly between species, corresponding well with expert-derived estimates of species-specific mobility. Interestingly, species of low and high mobility responded in opposite ways to increasing levels of landscape heterogeneity. In relatively simple landscapes, the movement patterns of low and high mobility species were similar. By contrast, in complex landscapes, the flight paths of low-mobility species became shorter and more erratic, whereas the flight paths of high-mobility species became longer and straighter. An analysis of the land covers traversed showed that most species avoided arable land but favoured the more heterogeneous parts of a given landscape.
In combination, our results suggest that non-arable patches in agricultural landscapes are important for butterfly movements, especially for low-mobility species.
KeywordsDispersal Eastern Europe Ecological flows Farmland biodiversity Individual tracking Intensification Landscape functional grain Landscape heterogeneity Mobility Land use change
This study was funded through a Sofja Kovalevskaja Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the German Ministry for Research and Education to JF. JE was supported by the strategic research environment BECC (Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a Changing Climate). We thank A. Krieg, P. Kirkland, G. Paulus, L. M. Ernst, O. Höppner, M. Röllig, L. Sutcliffe, A. Nagel and K. Kacinsky for help in the field, all experts participating in the questionnaire and all land owners allowing access to their fields. We are grateful for valuable discussions with J. Settele, H. G. Smith, O. Olsson and A. Körösi. Three anonymous reviewers provided thoughtful and detailed suggestions that helped to improve an earlier version of the manuscript.
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