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Long-term land-use changes and extinction of specialised butterflies

  • Sven Nilsson
  • Markus Franzén
  • Emma Jönsson
Publiceringsår: 2008
Språk: Engelska
Sidor: 197-207
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Insect Conservation and Diversity
Volym: 1
Nummer: 4
Dokumenttyp: Artikel i tidskrift
Förlag: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

1. Land-use change in 450 ha in southern Sweden between 1814 and 2004 was recorded. Butterflies and burnet moths were surveyed in 1904–1913 and 2001–2005.

2. We explore if local extinctions were related to land-use changes and species attributes.

3. Land use changed drastically over the 190-year period, and the largest relative change occurred for hay meadows with late harvest, which decreased from 28% to 0%. The area changed from grasslands and grazed forests to being dominated by timber forests. Previous open grazed mixed woodlands changed to spruce plantations with clear-cuts.

4. Of the 48 resident butterfly and burnet moths found a century ago, 44% have become extinct. The extinct Aporia cratægi, Colias palaeno, and Leptidea sinapis were abundant 100 years ago and had their highest densities in flower-rich glades in forest, a habitat which no longer exists.

5. The butterfly extinctions could be predicted from species-specific attributes as a short flight length period (P < 0.02), narrow habitat breadth (P < 0.02), small distribution area in Europe (P = 0.033) and possibly larvae food plant nitrogen class (P < 0.06). In a multiple logistic regression, the flight length period was the only significant variable because the independent variables were intercorrelated.

6. We conclude that the most important factor explaining the high extinction rate is that flower-rich habitats have disappeared from both woodlands as well as from open farmlands. The most sensitive species are specialised species with a short summer flight which have gone extinct. Only the most unspecialised species still persist in the current landscape.


  • Ecology
  • Distribution
  • extinction
  • forest glade
  • forestry
  • hay-meadow
  • land-use
  • landscape
  • nitrogen
  • pasture
  • Zygaenidae


  • ISSN: 1752-4598
Sven G. Nilsson
E-post: sven [dot] nilsson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Professor emeritus