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20.03.2019 – 15:04

Technische Universität München

Butterfly numbers down by two thirds: high-intensity agriculture reduces number of butterfly species in adjacent areas

TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF MUNICH

Corporate Communications Center

phone: +49 89 289 10510 - e-mail: presse@tum.de - web: www.tum.de

This text on the web: https://www.tum.de/nc/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/detail/article/35295/

High resulution images: https://mediatum.ub.tum.de/1429852

NEWS RELEASE

Butterfly numbers down by two thirds

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

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 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

Link: https://doi.org/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 - e-mail: toek@tum.de

Prof. Dr. Jan Christian Habel

Evolutionary Zoology

University of Salzburg

Hellbrunner Str. 34, 5020 Salzburg, Austria

Phone: +43 662 8044 5620 - e-mail: Janchristian.habel@sbg.ac.at

The Technical University of Munich (TUM) is one of Europe's leading research
universities, with around 550 professors, 42,000 students, and 10,000 academic
and non-academic staff. Its focus areas are the engineering sciences, natural
sciences, life sciences and medicine, combined with economic and social
sciences. TUM acts as an entrepreneurial university that promotes talents and
creates value for society. In that it profits from having strong partners in
science and industry. It is represented worldwide with the TUM Asia campus in
Singapore as well as offices in Beijing, Brussels, Cairo, Mumbai, San Francisco,
and São Paulo. Nobel Prize winners and inventors such as Rudolf Diesel, Carl von
Linde, and Rudolf Mößbauer have done research at TUM. In 2006 and 2012 it won
recognition as a German "Excellence University." In international rankings, TUM
regularly places among the best universities in Germany. www.tum.de 

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