Ernst et al: Grassland management in agricultural vs. forested landscapes... (2017)

Ernst, L.M., Tscharntke, T. & Batáry, P.
Grassland management in agricultural vs. forested landscapes drives butterfly and bird diversity.
Biological Conservation 216: 51–59.

Calcareous grasslands and orchard meadows are among the most species-rich semi-natural habitats in Europe, but they are severely threatened by intensified land use and abandonment. Here, we focus on the effects of management vs. abandonment of these grasslands in agricultural vs. forest-dominated landscapes of Germany. We recorded butterflies and birds and classified them in farmland and woodland species according to their habitat preferences. Species richness and abundance of farmland butterflies were higher on calcareous grasslands than orchard meadows and benefited from forested landscapes in case of orchard meadows. Species richness of woodland butterflies was higher on abandoned than managed grasslands, independent of habitat type and landscape context. Richness and abundance of farmland birds benefited from managed orchard meadows, and were more abundant in agricultural landscapes. On calcareous grasslands, however, the abandonment led to higher richness and abundance of farmland birds. Woodland birds exhibited higher species richness in abandoned than managed grasslands, especially in orchard meadows. Woodland birds and butterflies appeared to be less affected by habitat type, management or landscape context than farmland species. Calcareous grasslands were much more important for butterfly diversity than orchard meadows, but suitability of orchards for butterflies was improved when embedded in forested landscapes. In contrast to butterflies, bird diversity benefited more from orchard meadows than calcareous grasslands, which had higher diversity when management was abandoned. In conclusion, landscape context can shape communities in these two grassland habitat types, so conservation management should consider reserves in both agricultural and forested landscapes and thereby, diversify regional biota.

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