Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Populations of grassland butterflies decline almost 50 percent over two decades: European report

Date:
July 23, 2013
Source:
Helmholtz Centre For Environmental Research - UFZ
Summary:
Grassland butterflies have declined dramatically between 1990 and 2011. This has been caused by intensifying agriculture and a failure to properly manage grassland ecosystems, according to a new European report.

Butterflies examined in the report include the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus), which has declined significantly.
Credit: Erk Dallmeyer

Grassland butterflies have declined dramatically between 1990 and 2011. This has been caused by intensifying agriculture and a failure to properly manage grassland ecosystems, according to a report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Related Articles


In the report the data of the Butterfly monitoring scheme in Germany have been incorporated, which is scientifically supported by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). UFZ scientists have also contributed to the analysis of population trends.

The fall in grassland butterfly numbers is particularly worrying, according to the report, because these butterflies are considered to be representative indicators of trends observed for most other terrestrial insects, which together form around two thirds of the world's species. This means that butterflies are useful indicators of biodiversity and the general health of ecosystems.

Seventeen butterfly species are examined in 'The European Grassland Butterfly Indicator: 1990-2011', comprising seven widespread and 10 specialist species. Of the 17 species, eight have declined in Europe, two have remained stable and one increased. For six species the trend is uncertain.

Butterflies examined in the report include the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus), which has declined significantly, the Orangetip (Anthocharis cardamines), which seems to be stable since 1990, and the Lulworth Skipper (Thymelicus acteon), which shows an uncertain trend over the last two decades.

Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, said: "This dramatic decline in grassland butterflies should ring alarm bells -- in general Europe's grassland habitats are shrinking. If we fail to maintain these habitats we could lose many of these species forever. We must recognise the importance of butterflies and other insects -- the pollination they carry out is essential for both natural ecosystems and agriculture."

Why are butterflies disappearing?

Intensifying agriculture and abandoned land are the two main trends affecting the populations of grassland butterflies. Agriculture has intensified where the land is relatively flat and easy to cultivate, and, on the other hand,large areas of grasslands have been abandoned in mountainous and wet regions, mainly in eastern and southern Europe. Both intensification and abandonment result in the loss and degradation of habitat for grassland butterflies.

Agricultural intensification leads to uniform grasslands which are almost sterile for biodiversity. In addition, butterflies are also vulnerable to pesticides, often used in intensively managed farming systems.

Farmland is often abandoned for socio-economic reasons. When farming on low-productivity land brings only a small amount of income, and there is little or no support from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), farmers give up their enterprises and the land is left unmanaged. The grassland becomes overgrown and is soon replaced by scrub and woodland.

In some regions of north-western Europe, grassland butterflies are now almost restricted to road verges, railway sidings, rocky or wet places, urban areas and nature reserves. Areas using traditional low-input farming systems, known as High Nature Value Farmland, are also important habitats.

Monitoring Europe's butterflies

The report is based on the European Grassland Butterfly Indicator, compiled by De Vlinderstichting (Dutch Butterfly Conservation), Butterfly Conservation Europe and Statistics Netherlands, using data from 1990 to 2011. The indicator brings together information from national butterfly monitoring schemes in 19 countries across Europe, most of them European Union Member States. Thousands of trained professional and volunteer recorders count butterflies on approximately 3 500 transects scattered widely across Europe. This volunteer fieldwork is essential for understanding the state and trends of Europe's butterflies.

While the report is based on data from 1990 to 2011, it should be noted that in many areas of Europe the current changes in land use began before 1990. The report therefore suggests that the recent halving of butterfly numbers may be the most recent development in a much bigger long-term decline.

The EU Biodiversity Strategy recognises the poor conservation status of grasslands. Grasslands should be properly managed, the report states, both within Natura 2000 protected areas and on HNV farmland. A new system of payments under the Common Agricultural Policy could help support better management, the report says.

The European Grassland Butterfly Indicator could be used as a measure of success of agriculture policies. Sustainable funding of butterfly indicators would help validate and reform a range of policies and help achieve the goal of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2020.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Helmholtz Centre For Environmental Research - UFZ. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Helmholtz Centre For Environmental Research - UFZ. "Populations of grassland butterflies decline almost 50 percent over two decades: European report." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130723095412.htm>.
Helmholtz Centre For Environmental Research - UFZ. (2013, July 23). Populations of grassland butterflies decline almost 50 percent over two decades: European report. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130723095412.htm
Helmholtz Centre For Environmental Research - UFZ. "Populations of grassland butterflies decline almost 50 percent over two decades: European report." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130723095412.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Buzz60 (Oct. 31, 2014) For its nature series Life Story, the BBC profiled the barnacle goose, whose chicks must make a daredevil 400-foot cliff dive from their nests to find food. Jen Markham has the astonishing video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) The import of salamanders around the globe is thought to be contributing to the spread of a deadly fungus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) A health group in the United Kingdom has called for mandatory calorie labels on alcoholic beverages in the European Union. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

AFP (Oct. 31, 2014) Focus on treating the Ebola epidemic in Liberia means that treatment for malaria, itself a killer, is hard to come by. MSF are now undertaking the mass distribution of antimalarials in Monrovia. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins