Land management: what do pollinating butterflies need for survival?

An image of a butterfly on a flower.
©iStock/PhilDarby

It is important for pollinating butterflies to be near forests rather than agricultural fields, according to new research.

Linköping University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala, Sweden have studied 32,000 butterflies. They found that to preserve pollinating butterflies in the countryside, preserving the forest landscape could help them to survive.

Karl-Olof Bergman, senior lecturer in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, IFM, said: “Forests have habitats that butterfly can use, such as forest edges, power lines, forestry tracks, glades and cleared areas. Together with semi-natural grasslands, forests can be used to create landscapes that butterflies thrive in. Agricultural fields, in contrast, seem to have few resources that the butterflies can use, and the resources that are available benefit only a few species.”

Butterflies in Sweden

Semi-natural grasslands are a species-rich habitat in Sweden. However the amount of semi-natural grasslands has declined by ninety percent in past one hundred years. This has led to the decimation of many species of butterfly in Sweden.

The significance of the study

The findings are important for the planning and managemend of the landscape in order to ensure the survival of butterflies.

Bergmann explained: “Several of our results are really exciting, and demonstrate that the species richness of semi-natural grasslands is influenced by other factors than the properties of the grasslands themselves. The surrounding landscape is also important for butterflies. If the semi-natural grasslands are embedded within large regions of arable land, the number of species is reduced.”

How can we preserve pollinators?

Bergmann concluded:  “These results are important if we are to preserve the butterflies and other pollinators in the countryside, and create and preserve landscape that enables them to survive. The most species-rich regions for butterflies in southern Sweden are those that still have relatively large areas of semi-natural grasslands, principally in eastern Sweden including parts of Östergötland. It is important that these habitats are preserved.”

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