TUM – Technical University of Munich Menu
Hauhechel-Bläuling (Polyommatus icarus). (Bild: Jan Christian Habel / TUM)
Hauhechel-Bläuling (Polyommatus icarus). (Bild: Jan Christian Habel / TUM)
  • Research news

High-intensity agriculture reduces number of butterfly species in adjacent areas

Butterfly numbers down by two thirds

Meadows adjacent to high-intensity agricultural areas are home to less than half the number of butterfly species than areas in nature preserves. The number of individuals is even down to one-third of that number. These are results of a research team led by Jan Christian Habel at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Thomas Schmitt at the Senckenberg Nature Research Society.

Germany is home to roughly 33,500 species of insects – but their numbers are decreasing dramatically. Of the 189 species of butterflies currently known from Germany, 99 species are on the Red List, 5 have already become extinct, and 12 additional species are threatened with extinction.

Now a team led by Prof. Jan-Christian Habel of the Department of Terrestrial Ecology of the Technical University of Munich and Prof. Thomas Schmitt, Director of the Senckenberg German Entomological Institute in Müncheberg in Brandenburg, has examined the specific effects of the intensity of agricultural use on the butterfly fauna.

Reduced biodiversity also on areas around intensively cultivated fields

The research team recorded the occurrence of butterfly species in 21 meadow sites east of Munich. Of these study sites, 17 are surrounded by agriculturally used areas, and four are in nature preserves with near-natural cultivation.

They recorded a total of 24 butterfly species and 864 individuals in all study sites. Specialists among the butterflies were particularly dependent on near-natural habitats, while the more adaptable “generalists” were also found in other grassland sites.

“In the meadows that are surrounded by agriculturally used areas we encountered an average of 2.7 butterfly species per visit; in the four study sites within the nature preserves ‘Dietersheimer Brenne’ and ‘Garchinger Heide’ we found an average of 6.6 species,” adds Prof. Werner Ulrich of the Copernicus University in Thorn, Poland.

Negative impact of the industrialized agriculture demands rethinking

“Our results show an obvious trend: in the vicinity of intensively cultivated fields that are regularly sprayed with pesticides, the diversity and numbers of butterflies are significantly lower than in meadows near less used or unused areas,” explains the study’s lead author, Prof. Dr. Jan Christian Habel of the Technical University in Munich.

“Our study emphasizes the negative impact of the conventional, industrialized agriculture on the butterfly diversity and shows the urgent need for ecologically sustainable cultivation methods. Additional field studies may aid in identifying individual factors responsible for the insect die-back and in implementing appropriate countermeasures,” adds Schmitt in closing.

Publication:

J.C. Habel, W. Ulrich, N. Biburger, S. Seibold, and T. Schmitt
Agricultural intensification drives butterfly decline.
Insect Conserv Divers, Feb. 7, 2019 DOI: 10.1111/icad.12343

High resolution images:

https://mediatum.ub.tum.de/1429852

Contact:

Dr. Sebastian Seibold
Terrestrial Ecology
Technical University of Munich
Hans-Carl-von-Carlowitz-Platz 2, 85354 Freising, Germany
Phone: +49 8161 71 3495
toek(at)tum.de

Prof. Dr. Jan Christian Habel
Evolutionary Zoology
University of Salzburg
Hellbrunner Str. 34, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
Phone: +43 662 8044 5620
Janchristian.habel(at)sbg.ac.at

Corporate Communications Center

Technical University of Munich

Article at tum.de

Ein massiv ausgeweiteter Anbau von Energiepflanzen ist für die Artenvielfalt ähnlich schädlich wie der Klimawandel. (Bild: C. Hof / TUM)

Energy crop cultivation versus biodiversity

Employing bioenergy has long been considered an important option for climate protection. However, a study by researchers from the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center, the Technical University of Munich...

Hauhechelbläuling Polyommatus icarus, einer der häufigsten Bläulinge mit stark abnehmenden Populationen. (Foto: J. Habel/ TUM)

Insect die-off: Even common species are becoming rare

Together with their colleagues from the Senckenberg German Entomological Institute, scientists of Technical University of Munich (TUM) were able to show that currently widespread insects are threatened with a serious...

Das Jena Experiment beweist aufgrund seiner Breite erstmals, dass ein Verlust der Artenvielfalt negative Konsequenzen für viele einzelne Komponenten und Prozesse in Ökosystemen hat. (Foto: Das Jena Experiment)

Loss of species destroys ecosystems

How serious is the loss of species globally? Are material cycles in an ecosystem with few species changed? In order to find this out, the "Jena Experiment" was established in 2002, one of the largest biodiversity...

Die Kürbisspinne ist eine kleinere Radnetzspinne und zählt zu den Arten, die für die Studie beobachtet wurden. Ihr Name verweist auf den gelblich-grünen Hinterleib, der an einen Kürbis erinnert. (Foto: Charlesjsharp Sharp Photography /Creative-Commons-Lizenz CC BY-SA 3.0)

How grassland management without the loss of species works

The intensive management of grasslands is bad for biodiversity. However, a study by the Terrestrial Ecology Research Group at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has brought a ray of hope: If different forms of...

Eine blühende Wiese bietet neben dem ästhetischen Wert auch noch täglich handfeste, kostenlose Dienstleistungen für den Menschen. (Foto: Fotolia/ J. Fälchle)

Flowering meadows benefit humankind

The more it swarms, crawls and flies the better it is for humans. This is the finding of a study published in “Nature”. More than 60 researchers from a number of universities were involved, including the Technical...

„Die Beobachtung über einen Zeitraum von 200 Jahren bestätigt den allgemeinen Trend, dass spezialisierte Schmetterlingsarten stark rückläufig sind, obwohl sie im Fokus des Naturschutzes stehen“, sagt Dr. Jan Christian Habel. (Foto: TUM/ J. Habel)

Nature conservation areas no haven for butterflies

What do the brimstone, meadow brown and small heath butterfly species have in common? All of them are rather habitat specialists, with no specific ecological demands, they tend to have modest requirements when it comes to...

Eine Wissenschaftlerin sammelt Regenwürmer im Grasstreifen zwischen zwei Feldern.

Organic agriculture boosts biodiversity on farmlands

Does organic farming foster biodiversity? The answer is yes, however, the number of habitats on the land plays an important role alongside the type and intensity of farming practices. These are the findings of an...

Die konventionelle Landwirtschaft verursacht mehr Treibhausgase als Öko-Betriebe - dafür erzielt sie höhere Erträge.

Improving climate protection in agriculture

Agriculture is responsible for around ten to twelve percent of all greenhouse gases attributable to human activities. This raises the question of how these emissions could be reduced. A recent study has investigated – for...