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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Butterflies in Swedish grasslands benefit from forest and respond to landscape composition at different spatial scales

Bergman, Karl-Olof; Daniel-Ferreira, Juliana; Milberg, Per; Ockinger, Erik; Westerberg, Lars


ContextLoss and fragmentation of semi-natural grasslands has critically affected many butterfly species in Europe. Habitat area and isolation can have strong effects on the local biodiversity but species may also be strongly affected by the surrounding matrix.ObjectivesWe explored how different land cover types in the landscape explained the occurrence of butterfly species in semi-natural grasslands.MethodsUsing data from 476 semi-natural grasslands in Sweden, we analysed the effect of matrix composition on species richness and occurrence. Additionally, we analysed at which spatial scales butterflies responded to matrix types (forests, semi-natural grasslands, arable land and water).ResultsForest cover showed the strongest positive effect on species richness, followed by semi-natural grasslands. Forest also had a positive effect on red-listed species at local scales. Responses to matrix composition were highly species-specific. The majority of the 30most common species showed strong positive responses to the amount of forest cover within 200-500m. There was a smaller group of species showing a positive response to arable land cover within 500-2000m. Thirteen species showed positive responses to the amount of semi-natural grasslands, generally at larger scales (10-30km).ConclusionsOur study showed that surrounding forest is beneficial for many grassland butterfly species and that forests might mitigate the negative effects of habitat loss caused by agricultural intensification. Also, semi-natural grasslands were an important factor for species richness at larger spatial scales, indicating that a landscape consisting mainly of supporting habitats (i.e. forests) are insufficient to sustain a rich butterfly fauna.


Conservation; Forest; Grassland; Landscape composition; Lepidoptera; Spatial scale

Published in

Landscape Ecology
2018, Volume: 33, number: 12, pages: 2189-2204 Publisher: SPRINGER