Land-use pattern and landscape structure impact butterfly diversity and abundance in organic agroecosystems

Laura Guderjan, Jan Christian Habel, Boris Schröder, Thomas Schmitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context: Agricultural intensification and land-use patterns impact biodiversity and reduce ecosystem functions. Organic farming is often seen as a more biodiversity friendly way of farming. However, not all organic farming is equally supportive for biodiversity, structural diversity of the farms has a great impact and the often high intertwinement of organic and conventional farmland causes spill-over problems. Objective: On organic farmland in central Italy, we analysed butterfly diversity and community structures in different land-use categories across a heterogeneous landscape. We aim to analyse the impact of the different land-use structures such as hedges and forest edges on this farmland, as well as the influence of adjoining conventionally farmed areas. Methods: We studied butterflies on organic farmland including olive and hazelnut plantations, as well as meadows and fallow land, surrounded by hedges and forests. Hereby we considered the effects of land-use on the studied site and the adjoining land, e.g., semi-natural habitats (as hedges or forest edges), organic or conventional farmland. We counted butterflies along line transects and recorded habitat parameters for each transect. All encountered butterflies were classified according their ecological demands, behaviour, and life-history. Results: We found highest mean butterfly species richness in fallow land and lowest in hazelnut plantations. Species community structures differed hardly between plantations and meadows, but considerably compared to fallow land. Butterfly abundances are reduced for olive plantations adjacent to agricultural fields treated with pesticides, compared to such surrounded by organic fields. Habitat para-meters such as the number of flowering plant species and shade impact butterfly diversity and abundance. Forest edges producing considerable shadow to the transects had a significantly negative effect on diversity and abundance, while the influence of hedges was positive. Conclusions: Based on our findings, we conclude that also organic farmland has different degrees of biodiversity depending on a variety of land-use pattern. In particular, habitat heterogeneity and a high diversity of flowers positively influence butterfly diversity. The intensive mixing of organic and conventional agriculture must be seen critical for conservation as negative effects might spill over to organic fields, but might be compensable by landscape structures like hedges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2749-2762
Number of pages14
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Abundance
  • Butterflies
  • Community structure
  • Conventional farming
  • Edge effects
  • Landscape context
  • Organic farming
  • Pesticides
  • Species richness


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