The effect of organic farming on butterfly diversity depends on landscape context
We investigated the effect of farming practice on butterfly species richness and abundance along cereal field headlands and margins on 12 matched pairs of organic and conventional farms in contrasting landscapes (homogeneous and heterogeneous landscape diversity).
Both organic farming and landscape heterogeneity significantly increased butterfly species richness and abundance. There was also a significant interaction between farming practice and landscape heterogeneity, because organic farming only significantly increased butterfly species richness and abundance in homogeneous rather than heterogeneous landscapes.
An analysis of the distribution of organic farming in Sweden in relation to productivity of the arable land (yield of spring barley, kg ha(-1)) indicated that the distribution of organic farms was skewed towards extensively farmed agricultural areas.
Synthesis and applications. The species richness and abundance of butterflies can be enhanced by actions aimed at both promoting organic farming and increasing landscape heterogeneity. However, the beneficial effect of organic farming was only evident in intensively farmed homogeneous landscapes. Currently, the majority of organic arable land in Sweden is located in heterogeneous landscapes where changing the type of farming practice adds little to the existing biodiversity. We therefore propose that the interaction between landscape heterogeneity and farming practice must be considered when promoting farmland biodiversity, for example in Europe by developing context-based agri-environment schemes to increase the amount of organic farming in intensively farmed landscapes. We also propose that in homogeneous agricultural landscapes, organic farming could be used as a more efficient tool to restore landscape heterogeneity if the creation of semi-natural landscape elements was mandatory in the regulations associated with organic agri-environment schemes.
- ISSN: 1365-2664
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