Butterflies highlight the conservation value of hay meadows highly threatened by land-use changes in a protected Mediterranean area

Constantí Stefanescu, Josep Peñuelas, Iolanda Filella

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    Butterfly assemblages were used to characterize and evaluate the conservation value of the main habitat types in the Aiguamolls de l'Empordà Natural Park (north-eastern Spain), an important protected wetland area on the Mediterranean coast. Butterfly data were obtained from a number of transects walked as part of the Catalan Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, which uses a standardized methodology for monitoring butterflies. A Mantel test indicated a strong association between habitat types and the composition of butterfly assemblages and a principal component analysis ordinated individual butterfly species along a gradient from woodland to open areas, thereby indicating various degrees of shade tolerance. In addition, cluster analysis distinguished two main groups of habitats based on the similarities of their butterfly fauna: woodland and bramble clumps and a group of three different kinds of grasslands (traditionally hay meadows, pastures, and alfalfa fields). Hay meadows flooded in winter (the so-called closes) appeared always as the highest ranked habitat in terms of conservation evaluation: they have more butterflies and a slight tendency to harbor more and generally rarer species. This conclusion coincides with that of previous investigations that have indicated that the most diverse and rare plant communities in the whole Natural Park are present in the closes, and highlights the importance of traditionally managed hay meadows for wildlife. However, these hay meadows - one of the rarest habitats in the Mediterranean region - are in alarming decline and have become the most threatened habitat in this protected area: no longer profitable, we believe that the future of the closes will depend ultimately on the existence of agri-environmental schemes. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)234-246
    JournalBiological Conservation
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2005


    • Butterflies
    • Conservation value
    • Hay meadows
    • Life history
    • Mediterranean region


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