Maintain or create bare ground
Overall effectiveness category Awaiting assessment
Number of studies: 3
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Background information and definitions
Some butterflies and moths show preferences for exposed areas of ground (e.g. Marschalek et al. 2017, Vogel et al. 2007), which warm up quicker than the surrounding vegetation and can be used for basking/sunning, although other species avoid it (Vogel et al. 2007). Exposed ground can also allow less competitive plants to re-establish, which butterflies and moths may rely on as caterpillar food or adult nectar sources (Howe et al. 2004). Bare ground can be created in a number of ways, including disking (Dollar et al. 2013), turf stripping (Howe et al. 2004) or sod cutting (Sedláková & Chytrý 1999), or by the impact of livestock (Elligsen et al. 1997) or wild mammals (de Schaetzen et al. 2018).
De Schaetzen F., van Langevelde F. & WallisDeVries M.F. (2018) The influence of wild boar (Sus scrofa) on microhabitat quality for the endangered butterfly Pyrgus malvae in the Netherlands. Journal of Insect Conservation, 22, 51–59.
Dollar J.G., Riffell S.K. & Burger L.W. (2013) Effects of managing semi-natural grassland buffers on butterflies. Journal of Insect Conservation, 17, 577–590.
Elligsen H., Beinlich B. & Plachter H. (1997) Effects of large-scale cattle grazing on populations of Coenonympha glycerion and Lasiommata megera (Lepidoptera: Satyridae). Journal of Insect Conservation, 1, 13–23.
Howe M.A., Hinde D., Bennett D. & Palmer S. (2004) The conservation of the belted beauty Lycia zonaria britannica (Lepidoptera, Geometridae) in the United Kingdom. Journal of Insect Conservation, 8, 159–166.
Marschalek D.A., Faulkner D.K. & Deutschman D.H. (2017) Livestock Grazing Shapes the Vegetation Structure and Subsequent Habitat Use by the Endangered Skipper Pyrgus ruralis lagunae (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae), Environmental Entomology, 46, 445–453.
Sedláková I. & Chytrý M. (1999) Regeneration patterns in a Central European dry heathland: effects of burning, sod-cutting and cutting. Plant Ecology, 143(1), 77–87.
Vogel J.A., Debinski D.M., Koford R.R. & Miller J.R. (2007) Butterfly responses to prairie restoration through fire and grazing. Biological Conservation, 140, 78–90.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A site comparison study in 2000–2003 in a coastal sand dune in Merseyside, UK (Howe et al. 2004) reported that a plot stripped of turf and soil supported a translocated population of belted beauty moth Lycia zonaria britannica one year after release, but a plot that had been strimmed and raked did not. Two years after two grassland plots were cleared, and one year after eggs and caterpillars were released, eight adult moths (7 females, 1 male) were present in a plot which had been stripped of turf and soil, but no adults were present in a plot which had been strimmed and raked. In the summer of the release, caterpillars had been observed feeding in both plots. In winter 2000–2001, vegetation was removed from two 15 × 10 m plots within a 6.5-ha dune grassland. One plot was completely stripped of turf and soil to expose the bare sand, and the other was heavily strimmed to ground level, with cuttings and leaf litter raked off. Both plots were allowed to re-vegetate naturally. In early April 2002, three egg batches and 33 caterpillars were introduced to each plot, and in late April a further 10 caterpillars were added to the stripped plot. Caterpillars were observed in summer 2002, and adults were recorded in April 2003.Study and other actions tested
A replicated, site comparison study in 1998–1999 on 68 wet heathland sites in the Netherlands (WallisDeVries 2004) found that sod cutting to create bare ground did not increase occupancy by Alcon large blue Maculinea alcon. Alcon large blue occupancy at sites with sod cutting (47%) was similar to sites with no management (41%), but was lower when sod cutting and grazing were applied together (26%). Sixty-eight wet heathland sites in the Netherlands where Alcon large blue was known to have occurred since 1990 were selected. Management information for the last five years was obtained by sending questionnaires to land managers. Sod cutting had been used at 57% of sites, normally covering >100 m2/site (range: 10 m2 to 2 ha). From mid-July–early September 1998–1999, Alcon large blue eggs were counted in each of three 10 × 10 m plots/site to determine butterfly presence in the plot.Study and other actions tested
A replicated, randomized, controlled, before-and-after study in 2007–2009 on a mixed farm in Mississippi, USA (Dollar et al. 2013) found that disking grass field margins to create bare ground increased the abundance, but not species richness, of disturbance-tolerant butterflies without affecting the abundance or species richness of grassland butterflies. The abundance of 18 disturbance-tolerant butterfly species was higher both one (10–14 individuals) and two (18 individuals) years after disking than on undisturbed (4–14 individuals) margins. However, the species richness of disturbance-tolerant butterflies was similar between disked (7–9 species) and undisturbed (6–8 species) margins. Both the abundance and species richness of 14 grassland butterfly species remained similar in disked (abundance: 0.6–1.4 individuals; richness: 2 species) and undisturbed margins (abundance: 0.5–1.3; richness: 1–3 species). See paper for details of individual species. In spring 2004, grass margins were sown with a seed mix of common prairie species. Ten fields (containing 28 margins) were randomly assigned to one of two treatments: disking and no disturbance. Within each disking field, one margin was disked in autumn 2007, and a different margin was disked in autumn 2008. From June–August 2007–2009, butterflies were surveyed six times/year along three 50-m transects in the centre of each margin.Study and other actions tested
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This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:Butterfly and Moth Conservation
Butterfly and Moth Conservation - Published 2022
Butterfly and Moth Synopsis