Landscape context affects the relationship between local and landscape species richness of butterflies in semi-natural habitats

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Local species richness of butterflies can be expected to benefit from both local habitat properties as well as the availability of suitable habitats and source populations in the surrounding landscape. Whether local species richness is dependent on local or landscape factors can be assessed by examining the relationship between local and landscape species richness. Here we studied how local species richness is related to landscape-level species richness in landscapes differing in agricultural intensity. The relationship was linear for field boundaries in intensively cultivated landscapes and non-linear in less-intensively cultivated landscapes. In landscapes containing semi-natural grasslands (on average 4% of overall land-use), the relationship was non-linear for field boundaries, but linear when considering local species richness of the grasslands themselves. These results show that local factors are more important than landscape factors in determining local species richness in landscapes which contained semi-natural grasslands. Local species richness was limited by landscape factors in intensively cultivated landscapes. This interpretation was supported by the relationship between local species richness and landscape-scale average mobility and generalist percentage of butterfly assemblages. We conclude that the management of field boundary habitat quality for butterflies is expected to be most effective in landscapes with semi-natural grasslands, the species composition of which in turn is dependent on the regional occurrence of grasslands. Based on our results, managing non-crop habitats for the conservation of habitat specialists and species with poor mobility will be most efficient in regions where patches of semi-natural grasslands occur.

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