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Effects of irrigation and landscape heterogeneity on butterfly diversity in Mediterranean farmlands

AuthorsGonzález-Estébanez, Félix J.; Mateo-Tomás, Patricia ; Olea, Pedro P.
KeywordsAgricultural intensification
Cereal steppes
Mediterranean landscape
Issue Date2011
CitationAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 144(1): 262-270 (2011)
AbstractIrrigation effects on biodiversity are poorly known, particularly in Mediterranean agro-ecosystems. In this study we analyzed irrigation effects on butterfly species richness, abundance and diversity as well as on species composition in a farmed landscape under Mediterranean climate. The study area consisted of four contiguous agricultural sub-areas with a decreasing degree of intensification: irrigated, mixed (dry and irrigated), dry and environmentally protected (i.e. Special Protection Area, SPA) dry farmland. Forty one km-transects (ten per sub-area) were searched for butterflies in 2008 and 2009. Contrary to expectations, species richness (alfa, beta and gamma diversity) was highest in both years in the most intensified sub-area (i.e. irrigated) followed by SPA, dry and mixed sub-areas. Landscape characteristics accounted for most of the between-subareas differences in species richness. Species richness was negatively related to mean field size at the landscape level and positively related to the number of trees and large shrubs along transects. Therefore, the higher number of butterfly species recorded in the irrigated farmland could be due to a more complex landscape. In contrast, butterfly abundance was highest in cereal steppes (i.e. dry and SPA sub-areas), with abundance being negatively affected by mean field size. Inter-annual change in butterfly abundance was much sharper in rainfed (i.e. dry and SPA) than in irrigated (i.e. irrigated and mixed) sub-areas. Irrigated farmland may provide more favorable conditions for butterflies by buffering the (year-to-year and summer) drought periods characterising Mediterranean climate. Species composition differed among sub-areas, with differences being partly explained by field size and number of trees and shrubs along transects. Our study suggest an important role of landscape characteristics in boosting butterfly biodiversity in intensively managed irrigated croplands and emphasizes the importance of encouraging studies on farmland butterfly diversity in different (bioclimatic) regions allowing the design of region-specific agri-environmental schemes.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1016/j.agee.2011.09.002
issn: 0167-8809
Appears in Collections:(IREC) Artículos
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