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Klink R.V.,University of Groningen | Rickert C.,University of Kiel | Vermeulen R.,Stichting WBBS Foundation WB Biological Station | Vorst O.,European Invertebrate Survey Netherlands | And 3 more authors.
Biological Conservation

Light to moderate grazing in grasslands can create vegetation mosaics of short grazed vegetation and tall ungrazed vegetation. These mosaics have been proposed to maximize plant and animal species richness, yet experimental evidence, especially regarding arthropods is scarce. This study compares abundance, richness and species composition of arthropods in grazed mosaics to those of homogeneous short and tall vegetation.We sampled arthropods on three German coastal salt marshes where grazing with three densities (high, moderate and none) was installed in 1989 on previously intensively grazed plots. Stable vegetation mosaics had developed under moderate stocking densities. We collected spiders, beetles, bugs and moth larvae by suction sampling in a stratified random sampling design.Treatments had caused large differences in plant composition after 20. years, which were reflected in the arthropod community. Most species showed a clear preference for either short or tall vegetation, but some species were most abundant in grazed mosaics. Arthropod richness and composition were similar in patches of short vegetation in moderately and highly stocked plots, while patches of tall vegetation were similar to ungrazed plots. Surprisingly, however, grazed mosaics were not richer in species than homogeneous tall vegetation, despite the co-occurrence of species from short, tall and mosaic vegetation.We conclude that, although arthropod richness of salt marshes is greatly enhanced when stocking density is decreased, this cannot substitute ungrazed marshes for conservation of arthropod diversity. However, long term cessation leads to the disappearance of several species, and therefore the possibilities of rotational grazing should be explored. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Wallisdevries M.F.,De Vlinderstichting Dutch Butterfly Conservation | Wallisdevries M.F.,Wageningen University | Van Swaay C.A.M.,De Vlinderstichting Dutch Butterfly Conservation | Plate C.L.,Statistics Netherlands CBS
Current Zoology

Recent studies have documented declining trends of various groups of flower-visiting insects, even common butterfly species. Causes of these declines are still unclear but the loss of habitat quality across the wider countryside is thought to be a major factor. Nectar supply constitutes one of the main resources determining habitat quality. Yet, data on changes in nectar abundance are lacking. In this study, we provide the first analysis of changes in floral nectar abundance on a national scale and link these data to trends in butterfly species richness and abundance. We used transect data from the Dutch Butterfly Monitoring Scheme to compare two time periods: 1994-1995 and 2007-2008. The results show that butterfly decline can indeed be linked to a substantial decline in overall flower abundance and specific nectar plants, such as thistles. The decline is as severe in reported flower generalists as in flower specialists. We suggest that eutrophication is a main cause of the decline of nectar sources. © 2012 Current Zoology. Source

van Klink R.,University of Groningen | van der Plas F.,University of Groningen | van Noordwijk C.G.E.T.,Bargerveen Foundation | van Noordwijk C.G.E.T.,Radboud University Nijmegen | And 4 more authors.
Biological Reviews

Both arthropods and large grazing herbivores are important components and drivers of biodiversity in grassland ecosystems, but a synthesis of how arthropod diversity is affected by large herbivores has been largely missing. To fill this gap, we conducted a literature search, which yielded 141 studies on this topic of which 24 simultaneously investigated plant and arthropod diversity. Using the data from these 24 studies, we compared the responses of plant and arthropod diversity to an increase in grazing intensity. This quantitative assessment showed no overall significant effect of increasing grazing intensity on plant diversity, while arthropod diversity was generally negatively affected. To understand these negative effects, we explored the mechanisms by which large herbivores affect arthropod communities: direct effects, changes in vegetation structure, changes in plant community composition, changes in soil conditions, and cascading effects within the arthropod interaction web. We identify three main factors determining the effects of large herbivores on arthropod diversity: (i) unintentional predation and increased disturbance, (ii) decreases in total resource abundance for arthropods (biomass) and (iii) changes in plant diversity, vegetation structure and abiotic conditions. In general, heterogeneity in vegetation structure and abiotic conditions increases at intermediate grazing intensity, but declines at both low and high grazing intensity. We conclude that large herbivores can only increase arthropod diversity if they cause an increase in (a)biotic heterogeneity, and then only if this increase is large enough to compensate for the loss of total resource abundance and the increased mortality rate. This is expected to occur only at low herbivore densities or with spatio-temporal variation in herbivore densities. As we demonstrate that arthropod diversity is often more negatively affected by grazing than plant diversity, we strongly recommend considering the specific requirements of arthropods when applying grazing management and to include arthropods in monitoring schemes. Conservation strategies aiming at maximizing heterogeneity, including regulation of herbivore densities (through human interventions or top-down control), maintenance of different types of management in close proximity and rotational grazing regimes, are the most promising options to conserve arthropod diversity. © 2014 The Authors. Biological Reviews published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Cambridge Philosophical Society. Source

Radchuk V.,Catholic University of Louvain | WallisDeVries M.F.,De Vlinderstichting Dutch Butterfly Conservation | WallisDeVries M.F.,Wageningen University | Schtickzelle N.,Catholic University of Louvain

Background: The conservation of species structured in metapopulations involves an important dilemma of resource allocation: should investments be directed at restoring/enlarging habitat patches or increasing connectivity. This is still an open question for Maculinea species despite they are among the best studied and emblematic butterfly species, because none of the population dynamics models developed so far included dispersal. Methodology/Principal Findings: We developed the first spatially and financially explicit Population Viability Analysis model for Maculinea alcon, using field data from The Netherlands. Implemented using the RAMAS/GIS platform, the model incorporated both local (contest density dependence, environmental and demographic stochasticities), and regional population dynamics (dispersal rates between habitat patches). We selected four habitat patch networks, contrasting in several basic features (number of habitat patches, their quality, connectivity, and occupancy rate) to test how these features are affecting the ability to enhance population viability of four basic management options, designed to incur the same costs: habitat enlargement, habitat quality improvement, creation of new stepping stone habitat patches, and reintroduction of captive-reared butterflies. The PVA model was validated by the close match between its predictions and independent field observations on the patch occupancy pattern. The four patch networks differed in their sensitivity to model parameters, as well as in the ranking of management options. Overall, the best cost-effective option was enlargement of existing habitat patches, followed by either habitat quality improvement or creation of stepping stones depending on the network features. Reintroduction was predicted to generally be inefficient, except in one specific patch network. Conclusions/Significance: Our results underline the importance of spatial and regional aspects (dispersal and connectivity) in determining the impact of conservation actions, even for a species previously considered as sedentary. They also illustrate that failure to account for the cost of management scenarios can lead to very different conclusions. © 2012 Radchuk et al. Source

WallisDeVries M.F.,De Vlinderstichting Dutch Butterfly Conservation | WallisDeVries M.F.,Wageningen University
Basic and Applied Ecology

Environmental changes due to land use developments, climate change and nitrogen deposition have profound influences on species assemblages. Investigating the dynamics in species composition as a function of underlying traits may increase our understanding of ecosystem functioning and provide a basis for effective conservation strategies. Here, I use a broad array of species traits for butterflies to identify four main components of associated traits. These reflect the spatial use of the landscape, abiotic vulnerability, developmental rate and phenology, and food specialisation, respectively. The first three trait components each contribute to determine Red List status, but only the developmental rate and phenology component is related to recent population trends. I argue that the latter component reflects the environmental impact of nutrient availability and microclimate, as affected by nitrogen deposition. This perspective sheds a new light on ongoing changes in community composition. Thus, a multidimensional view of trait associations allows us to move beyond the simplistic specialist-generalist dichotomy, renew our view on species-specific studies and help in setting new priorities for conservation. © 2014 Gesellschaft für Ökologie. Source

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