Pay farmers to cover the costs of conservation measures (as in agri-environment schemes or conservation incentives)

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    not assessed
  • Certainty
    not assessed
  • Harms
    not assessed

Study locations

Key messages

  • Thirty studies evaluated the effects of paying farmers to cover the costs of conservation measures on butterflies and moths. Sixteen studies were in the UK, eight were in Switzerland, two were in Finland, and one was in each of Sweden, the Czech Republic, the USA and Germany.

COMMUNITY RESPONSE (18 STUDIES)

  • Community composition (1 study): One replicated, controlled study in Switzerland found that the community composition of butterflies on grasslands that farmers were paid to manage for wildlife was similar to intensively managed grasslands.
  • Richness/diversity (18 studies): Eleven of 14 studies (including eight controlled, one before-and-after and five site comparison studies) in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Sweden found that the species richness or diversity of butterflies and moths on grassland, field margins, wildflower strips or whole farms managed under agri-environment schemes was higher than on conventional fields or farms. The other three studies found that the species richness of butterflies and micro-moths on grassland, field margins, wildflower strips or whole farms managed under agri-environment schemes was similar to conventional fields or farms. One of two replicated, site comparison studies in Switzerland found that the species richness of butterflies was higher in landscapes with a greater proportion of land managed under agri-environment schemes than in landscapes with a smaller proportion of agri-environment schemes, but the other study found that species richness of butterflies was similar on individual farms with more land managed under agri-environment schemes than on farms with smaller areas of agri-environment schemes. One replicated, site comparison study in the USA found that the species richness of butterflies on grassland sown under a conservation incentive program was similar to that on native prairie. One replicated, site comparison study in Finland found that the species richness of butterflies and day-flying moths on grassland managed under an agri-environment scheme was lower than on abandoned, unmanaged grassland.

POPULATION RESPONSE (25 STUDIES)

  • Abundance (25 studies): Sixteen of 17 studies (including seven controlled, two before-and-after and eight site comparison studies) in the UK, Sweden, Switzerland and Germany found that the abundance of butterflies and moths overall, and of specific species of butterflies or moths, in woodland, grassland, field margins, wildflower strips or whole farms managed under agri-environment schemes was higher than in unmanaged woodland or conventional fields or farms. The other study found that the abundance of macro-moths on field margins managed under agri-environment schemes was similar to conventional margins. Three of four replicated studies (including one controlled and three site comparison studies) in the UK and Switzerland found that the abundance of butterflies was higher on farms or in landscapes with a higher proportion of land managed under agri-environment schemes than in areas with less land in agri-environment schemes. The other study found that the abundance of some species was higher, but others were lower, on farms with enhanced agri-environment management compared to simple management. Three studies (including one before-and-after and two replicated, site comparison studies) in Finland and the Czech Republic found that grassland grazed or restored under agri-environment scheme prescriptions had a lower abundance of all but three butterfly and day-flying moth species compared to unmanaged grassland, and that Danube clouded yellow abundance declined after agri-environment scheme mowing was initiated on abandoned grasslands. One replicated, site comparison study in the USA found that the abundance of butterflies on grassland sown under a conservation incentive program was lower than on native prairie.

BEHAVIOUR (0 STUDIES)

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated, site comparison study in 1999–2000 in southwest Finland (Poyry et al. 2004, same experimental set-up as Poyry et al. 2005) found that species-rich grasslands which farmers were paid to manage under agri-environment schemes (AES) had a lower abundance and species richness of butterflies and day-flying moths than abandoned, unmanaged grassland. The abundance of butterflies and moths was lower in both restored (126 individuals) and continuously grazed AES pastures (126 individuals) than in abandoned pastures not managed under AES (306 individuals). The number of species was also lower in restored pastures (22 species) than in abandoned pastures (33 species), but the number in continuously grazed pastures was intermediate (26 species). Butterflies and moths were monitored in 1999 or 2000 on 10 restored pastures where, after at least 10 years of abandonment, grazing had re-started 3–8 years before the study, 11 continuously grazed pastures, and 12 abandoned pastures which had not been grazed for at least 10 years. All restored and most continuously grazed pastures received support under the Finnish AES. All grazing was by cattle. Butterflies and day-flying moths were counted along transects four (1999) or seven (2000) times from May–August. Either searching time (1999) or transect length (2000) were standardized across sites.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, controlled study in 2000–2002 in three farmland regions of the Swiss Plateau, Switzerland (Aviron et al. 2005) found more butterfly species on grasslands which farmers were paid to manage for wildlife than on intensively managed grasslands in one of two study years. In 2002, but not in 2000, grasslands managed under agri-environment schemes had more butterfly species than intensively managed grasslands (actual numbers not given). The identity of the butterfly species found was not significantly influenced by management intensity, but was different in different regions. The agri-environment scheme grasslands were managed as “Ecological Compensation Areas”, with restricted fertilizer and pesticide use, and delayed mowing. Butterflies were recorded in 56 agri-environment grasslands and 48 intensively managed grasslands during the summers of 2000 and 2002.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A replicated, controlled study in 1996–2000 on three arable farms in Essex, UK (Field & Mason 2005, same experimental set-up as Field et al. 2005, Field et al. 2006, Field et al. 2007a, Field et al. 2007b) found that the number of gatekeepers Pyronia tithonus on sown grass margins which farmers were paid to create increased over four years, and was higher than on cropped field edges at one of three farms after 2–4 years. Gatekeeper abundance on 2-m-wide agri-environment scheme grass margins increased from 2.2 individuals/km to 12.9 individuals/km over four years after the margins were sown. However, abundance was significantly higher in grass margins than in cropped margins at only one of three farms after 2–4 years (grass margin: 9.1 individuals/km, cropped edges: 0.7 individuals/km; other farms grass margin: 6.8–11.9 individuals/km, cropped edges: 1.9–17.3 individuals/km). Thirteen grass margins (2 m wide, 141–762 m long) were established in October 1996–2000 by sowing one of three seed mixtures, containing 4–6 grass species, according to Countryside Stewardship Scheme requirements. Three field edges without margins (one on each farm, 133–343 m long) were used as controls. Gatekeeper abundance was monitored weekly along each grass margin and cropped edge in July and August 1997–2000.

    Study and other actions tested
  4. A replicated, controlled study in 1996–2000 at two arable farms in Essex, UK (Field et al. 2005, same experimental set-up as Field & Mason 2005, Field et al. 2006, Field et al. 2007a, Field et al. 2007b) found that grass margins which farmers were paid to create had higher butterfly abundance, but not species richness, than in cropped field edges. More butterflies were recorded in sown or naturally regenerated agri-environment scheme grass margins (46 individuals/km) than in cropped field edges (21 individuals/km), but the species richness was similar (grass margin: 8; cropped edges: 9 species). Of the ‘key’ grassland butterfly species, only meadow brown Maniola jurtina was more abundant in grass margins (19 individuals/km) than in cropped field edges (9 individuals/km). More butterflies (125 individuals/km), including meadow brown (57 individuals/km), were found in a sown grass margin established next to a permanent set-aside field than on all other margin types (all butterflies: 32–41 individuals/km; meadow brown: 4–27 individuals/km). In 1996, eight 6-m-wide margins were established on two farms. Five were sown with grass seed mixtures (6 or 9 species) according to Countryside Stewardship Scheme requirements, and three were left to natural regeneration. One arable field edge without margins on each farm was used as a control. Butterfly abundance was monitored weekly from late June to early August 1997–2000. All butterflies were recorded, but special note was taken of ‘key’ grassland species: meadow brown, gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus, small skipper Thymelicus sylvestris, Essex skipper Thymelicus lineola, and large skipper Ochlodes venata.

    Study and other actions tested
  5. A replicated, site comparison study in 1999–2000 in southwest Finland (Poyry et al. 2005, same experimental set-up as Poyry et al. 2004) found that 11 of 32 butterfly and day-flying moth species were less abundant in species-rich grasslands which farmers were paid to manage under agri-environment schemes (AES) than in abandoned, unmanaged grassland. Eleven out of 32 species of butterfly and day-flying moth were less abundant in AES grassland than in abandoned grassland. However, three species were more abundant in continuously grazed AES grassland than in restored AES grassland or abandoned grassland. Five species had lower abundance in either restored or continuously grazed grassland than in the other two habitats. The remaining 13 species had similar abundance in all three grassland types (see paper for data on individual species). Butterflies and day-flying moths were monitored in 1999 or 2000 on 10 restored pastures where, after at least 10 years of abandonment, grazing had re-started 3–8 years before the study, 11 continuously grazed pastures and 12 abandoned pastures which had not been grazed for at least 10 years. All restored and most continuously grazed pastures received support under the Finnish AES. All grazing was by cattle. Butterflies and day-flying moths were counted along transects four (1999) or seven (2000) times from May–August. Either searching time (1999) or transect length (2000) were standardized across sites.

    Study and other actions tested
  6. A replicated, controlled study in 1996–2000 on three arable farms in Essex, UK (Field et al. 2006, same experimental set-up as Field & Mason 2005, Field et al. 2005, Field et al. 2007a, Field et al. 2007b) found that 2-m-wide sown grass margins which farmers were paid to create, but not 6-m-wide grass margins, had higher butterfly species richness than field edges without grass margins. Butterfly species richness was higher in 2-m-wide agri-environment scheme grass margins (8–9 species) than in cropped field edges without margins (5–7 species), but was not significantly different in 6-m-wide margins compared to cropped field edges (data not presented). Species richness was also higher on 2-m grass margins sown with a more diverse seed mixture, and was higher on 2-m grass-sown margins next to hedgerows than on margins without hedgerows (data not presented). In October 1996–1998, twenty-six margins were established according to Countryside Stewardship Scheme requirements on three farms: 13 grass-sown that were 2 m wide, five grass-sown that were 6 m wide, three naturally regenerated (6 m wide) and five cropped field edges (2 and 6 m wide). Grass-sown margins were established using seed mixtures containing 4–9 common grass species. Butterflies were monitored weekly in summer from 1997–2000 in suitable weather.

    Study and other actions tested
  7. A replicated, paired, site comparison study in 2003–2004 on 24 arable farms in Scania, Sweden (Rundlof & Smith 2006) found that farms which landowners were paid to manage organically had a higher abundance and species richness of butterflies and burnet moths than conventional farms in intensively farmed but not more diverse landscapes. In intensively farmed landscapes, both the abundance (1.7 individuals/50 m) and species richness (0.9 species/50 m) of butterflies and burnet moths on subsidized organic farms were higher than on conventional farms (abundance: 0.4 individuals/50 m; richness: 0.3 species/50 m). However, in more diverse landscapes, the abundance (4.5 individuals/50 m) and species richness (1.6 species/50 m) of butterflies and burnet moths on subsidized organic farms were not significantly different from conventional farms (abundance: 3.6 individuals/50 m; richness: 1.4 species/50 m). Twelve arable farms with >50% of land under EU-subsidized organic management in 2002 and 12 conventional farms of similar size, crop type and landscape features, were selected. Farm pairs were 3–8 km apart. Six pairs of farms were in diverse landscapes (15% arable land, 19% pasture, small fields), and six pairs were in intensively farmed landscapes (70% arable land, 3% pasture, large fields). From June–August 2003 and May–August 2004, butterflies and burnet moths were surveyed 5–6 times/year along 400–750 m routes along cereal field boundaries. Individuals occurring 5 m into the crop and in adjacent 2-m uncultivated margins were counted.

    Study and other actions tested
  8. A replicated, paired, controlled study in 2004 in 13 hay meadows in Aargau, Switzerland (Albrecht et al. 2007) found that paying farmers to manage meadows for wildlife resulted in higher species richness and abundance of butterflies compared to intensively managed meadows. Species richness and abundance of butterflies was higher in meadows managed under agri-environment schemes (AES) than in intensively managed meadows (data presented as model results). However, species richness and abundance of butterflies in intensively managed meadows was the same closer to and further from AES meadows (data presented as model results). The 13 low-input meadows (0.48–2.15 ha) had been managed as “Ecological Compensation Areas”, with no fertilizer application and not mown until after 15 June, for at least 5 years, and were paired with adjacent intensively managed meadows. In May 2004 four pots, each containing one plant of radish Raphanus sativus, clustered bellflower Campanula glomerata, and common catsear Hypochaeris radicata, were placed in each AES meadow, and at 25, 50, 100 and 200 m into the adjacent intensive meadow. Flower visiting insects were collected between 10:00 and 16:00 in one 20-minute session/station in each of May, July and August 2004.

    Study and other actions tested
  9. A replicated, controlled study in 1998–2004 in two farmland regions of the Swiss Plateau, Switzerland (Aviron et al. 2007) found more species of butterfly on grassland which farmers were paid to manage for wildlife than on conventional grassland in one of the two areas. In Nuvilly, there was an average of 12 species on agri-environment scheme (AES) grasslands and 11 species on conventional grasslands. In Ruswil, there was an average of 3.4 species on AES grasslands and 2.6 species on conventional grasslands. When other factors such as number of plant species, coverage of woody plants or distance to forest were taken into account, this difference was only statistically significant in Ruswil, and not in Nuvilly. AES grasslands had more ‘specialist’ species – those with only one generation/year, poor dispersal ability or caterpillars that eat only one type of plant. AES grasslands, managed as “Ecological Compensation Areas”, were fertilized with an average of 7 kg N/ha and cut on average twice a year. Conventional grasslands were fertilized with an average of 206 kg N/ha and cut on average three times each year. Every two years from 1998–2004, butterflies were surveyed in five 10-minute surveys every 2–3 weeks between May and August, in 20–22 AES grasslands and 6–16 conventional grasslands.

    Study and other actions tested
  10. A replicated, controlled study in 1996–2000 on three arable farms in Essex, UK (Field et al. 2007a, same experimental set-up as Field & Mason 2005, Field et al. 2005, Field et al. 2006, Field et al. 2007b) found that planted grass margins which farmers were paid to create had higher butterfly abundance than cropped field edges without margins. Butterfly abundance was higher in sown agri-environment scheme grass margins (67 individuals/km) than in cropped field edges (26 individuals/km). In sown grass margins abundance was higher for meadow brown Maniola jurtina (16 individuals/km) and golden skipper Thymelicus spp. (14 individuals/km) compared to cropped margins (meadow brown: 4; Thymelicus spp.: 1 individuals/km), but the abundance of gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus was similar (grass margin: 8; cropped margin: 5 individuals/km). Over four years, the total abundance of butterflies in the sown margins decreased (from 101 to 47 individuals/km), as did the abundance of Thymelicus spp. (32 to 3 individuals/km) and large skipper Ochlodes venata (15 to 1 individuals/km). However, the abundance of gatekeeper increased (2 to 13 individuals/km). In October 1996, thirteen 2-m-wide grass margins were sown (20 kg seed/ha) and were not cut after the first year according to Countryside Stewardship Scheme requirements. Butterfly abundance was monitored weekly from late June to early August 1997–2000 in grass margins and cropped field edges on each farm. All butterflies were recorded, but special note was taken of ‘key’ grassland species: meadow brown, gatekeeper, small skipper Thymelicus sylvestris, Essex skipper Thymelicus lineola and large skipper.

    Study and other actions tested
  11. A replicated, controlled study in 1996–2003 on three arable farms in Essex, UK (Field et al. 2007b, same experimental set-up as Field & Mason 2005, Field et al. 2005, Field et al. 2006, Field et al. 2007a) found that planted grass margins which farmers were paid to create had higher butterfly abundance than cropped field edges without grass margins. Butterfly abundance was higher in both 2-m-wide (64 individuals/km) and 6-m-wide (54 individuals/km) sown agri-environment scheme grass margins than in cropped field edges (19–24 individuals/km). Meadow brown Maniola jurtina abundance was higher in 2-m (15 individuals/km) and 6-m (22 individuals/km) margins than in cropped field edges (4–5 individuals/km), but abundance was similar for gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus (grass margin: 7–9; cropped: 5–6 individuals/km) and golden skipper Thymelicus spp. (grass margin: 5–14; cropped: 2–13 individuals/km). In October 1996–1997, three 2-m-wide margins were sown with grass seed (4–6 species) and left uncut after the first year, and three 6-m-wide margins were established through natural regeneration or by sowing (6–9 species), and cut annually after 15 July, according to Countryside Stewardship Scheme requirements. Butterfly abundance was monitored weekly in summer 1997–2000 and 2003 in the six grass margins and five cropped field edges.

    Study and other actions tested
  12. A replicated, site comparison study in 1991–2000 in 128 grassland sites across southern England, UK (Brereton et al. 2008) found that chalkhill blue Polyommatus coridon abundance increased more on sites with agri-environment scheme agreements than sites without agreements. Chalkhill blue numbers increased on average 3.2%/year at 66 sites with Countryside Stewardship Scheme or Environmentally Sensitive Area agreements, compared to a non-significant decline of -2.7%/year at 62 non-scheme sites. Chalkhill blues were counted annually from 1991 to 2000, at 128 sites across its entire UK range. This was part of the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, which takes weekly transect counts along a set route at each site and follows standardized weather conditions.

    Study and other actions tested
  13. A before-and-after study in 1980–2006 in a forest-steppe landscape in the White Carpathians, Czech Republic (Konvicka et al. 2008) reported that paying farmers to mow grasslands under agri-environment schemes (AES) decreased the abundance of Danube clouded yellow Colias myrmidone. Results were not tested for statistical significance. In the first year of AES management, only 11 observations of 26 individual Danube clouded yellows were recorded, compared to 2,345 records in the eight years immediately prior to AES management, and 3,838 records in the previous 15 years. In the second and third years of AES management, only five and two individuals were recorded, respectively, and these observations were from abandoned pasture outside of the reserves. From the 1970s to the mid-1990s, infrequent mowing and scrub removal were used to prevent succession on 2,457 ha of grassland reserves. From the mid-1990s to 2004, reserves were mown uniformly using national funding, and since 2004 this was increased to two cuts/year under AES on all but 355 ha of grassland. Historical butterfly records were compiled for 1980–1994 and 1995–2002, and butterflies were recorded 3–6 times/year on systematic surveys at prescribed sites.

    Study and other actions tested
  14. A replicated, site comparison study in 1998–2005 in mixed farmland in Aargau, Switzerland (Roth et al. 2008) found that Ecological Compensation Areas (ECAs), which farmers were paid to create, initially supported more butterfly species than farmed land, but over time the number of species decreased in both ECAs and farmed land. When initially surveyed, there were more species of butterfly in ECAs (7.3 species/plot) than in non-ECA sites (5.6 species/plot). However, between the first survey and the second survey, the number of butterfly species decreased overall, but the decreases were similar on ECA and non-ECA sites (both -1.1 species/plot). Most ECA sites were established between 1992 and 1998, and were managed for wildlife for at least six years under the Swiss agri-environment scheme. Sites were surveyed twice, five years apart, with the first survey taking place in 1998–2000 and the second in 2003–2005. At 52 ECA sites and 35 non-ECA sites, butterflies were surveyed along a 10 x 250 m transect 11 times/ year. The authors noted that ECAs were typically established on farmland with potential for maximum biodiversity gain, which may have affected the relative numbers of species found in the first survey.

    Study and other actions tested
  15. A replicated, controlled study in 1998–2004 in three grassland and arable farmland regions in central Switzerland (Aviron et al. 2009) found that wildflower strips and low-input grasslands which farmers were paid to create or manage for wildlife contained similar numbers of butterfly species to conventional crop fields and conventionally managed grassland. The estimated number of butterfly species on wildflower strips (19 species) was the same as on conventional crop fields (19 species). The estimated number of species was also similar between low-input (36 species) and conventional (34 species) grassland. The study sampled 78 wildflower strips (sown with 20–40 plant species) and 72 crop fields, and 315 low-input grasslands managed as “Ecological Compensation Areas” and 216 conventionally managed grasslands. From 1998–2004, butterflies were surveyed every two years between May and September, using five 10-minute observation periods across 0.25 ha/field.

    Study and other actions tested
  16. A replicated, paired, site comparison study in 2007 in four arable fields in Oxfordshire, UK (Merckx et al. 2009a, same experimental set-up as Merckx et al. 2009b, 2010, 2012) found a higher abundance of common farmland larger moth species in the margins and centres of fields with 6-m-wide perennial grass margins, which farmers were paid to maintain, than in fields with standard 1-m margins, but this varied between species. Fields with 6-m-wide agri-environment scheme grass margins had 40% more moths of nine common species combined than fields with standard margins (data presented as model results). However, only two individual species (treble lines Charanyca trigrammica and brown-line bright-eye Mythimna conigera) were more abundant in fields with wide margins (data presented as model results). On the 32 nights (dusk till dawn) with suitable weather between 5 June and 14 July 2007, ten Heath pattern actinic light traps (6 W) were positioned in two arable fields/night: one in the centre of each field, and one in each field margin (1 m from hedgerow). All traps were >100 m apart and >50 m from hedgerow intersections. Traps were alternated between two pairs of fields each night, one with 6-m-wide perennial grass margins maintained under agri-environment agreements, and the other with standard 1-m-wide margins. Moths were identified on the morning after capture.

    Study and other actions tested
  17. A replicated, controlled study in 2004–2006 in four arable areas in Oxfordshire, UK (Merckx et al. 2009b, same experimental set-up as Merckx et al. 2009a, 2010, 2012) found that farms with mature hedgerow trees in areas where farmers were encouraged to sign-up to agri-environment schemes (AES) had a higher abundance and diversity of larger moths than farms with hedgerow trees where farmers signed-up voluntarily. Farms with mature trees in their hedgerows in areas where farmers were encouraged to sign-up to AES had a higher abundance (9.6 individuals) and species diversity of moths than farms with hedgerow trees in areas where farmers signed-up voluntarily (abundance: 8.5 individuals), and farms without hedgerow trees where farmers were encouraged to sign-up (abundance: 8.2 individuals; diversity presented as model results). After two years of encouraging AES sign-ups, the area of land with enhanced hedgerow management options in targeted areas (5,197 ha, 219 km hedgerow) was higher than in voluntary sign-up areas (1,972 ha, 83 km hedgerow). Enhanced management required maintaining hedges at a height of >2 m, and not cutting more than once every three years. From 2004–2006, farmers in two areas were systematically encouraged to sign-up to AES. In two other areas, no active encouragement was given, but some farmers entered the scheme voluntarily. Four farms in each area were divided into two experimental groups: with and without mature (>15 m high) hedgerow trees. All farms were sampled once during each of 11 discrete fortnightly periods from mid-May to mid-October 2006 using standardized moth traps.

    Study and other actions tested
  18. A before-and-after study in 1994–2006 on a farm in Oxfordshire, UK (Taylor & Morecroft 2009) found that following adoption of the Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) scheme, the abundance and species richness of large moths and some species of butterfly increased. After ESA management began, the total abundance (1,000–1,450 individuals) and species richness of large moth species was higher than before (800–1,250 individuals, richness data not presented). One of the five most abundant moth species (lunar underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa) and five of 23 butterfly species (meadow brown Maniola jurtina, brown argus Aricia agestis, common blue Polyommatus icarus, small copper Lycaena phlaeas and red admiral Vanessa atalanta) increased in abundance after the change in management. However, two butterfly species became less abundant (green-veined white Pieris napi and large white Pieris brassicae, data presented as model results). Overall butterfly abundance and species richness increased over the entire monitoring period, but the increase did not just happen after the management change. In 2002, the farm entered the ESA agri-environment scheme. The proportion of grassland increased, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides were no longer used, and the total number of livestock dropped from 180 cows and 1,000 sheep to 120 cows and 850 sheep. Butterflies were monitored weekly from April–September on a fixed 3.6 km transect divided into 13 sections. Moths were monitored nightly from dusk to dawn using a light trap in a fixed position in the middle of the farm.

    Study and other actions tested
  19. A replicated, site comparison study in 2006–2008 on four arable farms in Oxfordshire, UK (Merckx et al. 2010, same experimental set-up as Merckx et al. 2009a, 2009b, 2012) found that field margins next to hedgerow trees, which farmers were paid to maintain under agri-environment schemes, had more pale shining brown moths Polia bombycina than margins without hedgerow trees, but wider margins did not have more moths than standard margins. The number of individuals caught in margins next to hedgerow trees (1.0–1.3 individuals/trap) was higher than the number in margins without trees (0.3–0.4 individuals/trap). However, the number of individuals caught in wide field margins (0.4–1.3 individuals/trap) was not significantly different to the number caught in standard width margins (0.3–1.0 individuals/trap). Four farms were assigned to one of four treatments, based on their most common agri-environment schemes habitat: 6-m-wide perennial grass or 1–2-m-wide standard field margins, and with or without hedgerow trees (>15 m high, mostly pedunculated oak Quercus robur). From May–October 2006–2008, moths were sampled overnight, once/fortnight, using three 6 W Heath pattern actinic light traps/farm. In June–July 2007 and 2008, at one farm, an additional 8–10 traps were set for 32–33 nights/year, in margins with the same treatments across 4–5 fields (16–20 locations). All traps were 1 m from hedgerows (2–3 m high, 1.5–2.5 m wide), 5 m from trees (if applicable), >50 m from hedgerow intersections, and >100 m apart.

    Study and other actions tested
  20. A replicated, site comparison study in 2000–2004 in an arable landscape in the Swiss Plateau, Switzerland (Aviron et al. 2011) found that wildflower strips which farmers were paid to create contained a higher abundance and species richness of generalist but not specialist butterflies than other arable habitats. For generalist butterflies, both the average abundance (24.0 individuals) and species richness (7.0 species) were higher in wildflower strips than in conventional grassland (abundance: 12.0; richness: 5.0) or wheat, maize and root crop fields (abundance: 2.6–3.7, richness: 1.8–2.2). However, for specialist butterflies there was no significant difference in abundance or richness (wildflower: abundance = 2.4; richness = 1.0; grassland: abundance = 0.6, richness = 0.5; crops: abundance = 0.4; richness = 0.2). Species richness of generalists was also higher in fields with more wildflower strips in the surrounding area (data presented as model results). From 1994–2004, within an 822-ha arable landscape, wildflower strips were sown with buckwheat as ground cover, and 30–40 wild plant species. They received no fertilizer or pesticide, and were not cut between 15 March and 1 October. In 2000, 2002 and 2004, butterflies were surveyed in five habitats: wildflower strips, conventional grassland, wheat fields, root crops and maize fields. Each year, 37–39 fields (6–11 fields/habitat) were sampled with 5 × 10-minute surveys every 2–3 weeks between May and August. The surrounding land cover (200-m radius) was mapped from aerial photographs. Generalist and specialist species were determined based on the number of caterpillar food plants.

    Study and other actions tested
  21. A replicated, paired, site comparison study in 2008 on 36 farms in central Scotland, UK (Fuentes-Montemayor et al. 2011) reported that farms managed under agri-environment schemes (AES) had a higher abundance and species richness of moths than conventionally-managed farms. Results were not tested for statistical significance. On AES farms, 390 individuals of 51 species of micro-moth were recorded, compared to 199 individuals of 43 species on conventionally-managed farms. On AES farms, 1,377 individuals of 71 species of all macro-moths, and 159 individuals of 13 species of declining macro-moths, were recorded, compared to conventional farms where 917 individuals of 61 species of all macro-moths and 111 individuals of 17 species of declining macro-moth were recorded. In 2004, eighteen farms enrolled in AES, and were paired with 18 similar but conventionally-managed farms, <8 km away. Each AES farm had at least three of four features (hedgerows, sown grass field margins or banks, sown species-rich grassland, >3-m-wide waterway margins) all with reduced chemical inputs and relaxed cutting and grazing regimes compared to similar habitat features on the conventional farms. From June–September 2008, moths were collected for four hours, on one night/farm, using 6 W heath light traps located next to each habitat type (3–4 traps/farm, ≥100 m apart). Paired farms were surveyed on the same night.

    Study and other actions tested
  22. A replicated, randomized, paired, controlled study in 2005–2011 on an arable farm in Buckinghamshire, UK (Heard et al 2011) found that land managed under an agri-environment scheme had a higher abundance, but not species richness, of butterflies and micro-moths than conventional farming, but there was no difference in abundance or species richness of other moths. Butterfly abundance was higher under enhanced Entry-Level Stewardship (ELS) (5,400 individuals/60 ha) and standard ELS (2,000 individuals/60 ha) than under conventional farming (1,400 individuals/60 ha). Micro-moth abundance was also higher under enhanced ELS (79 individuals) than standard ELS (32 individuals) or conventional farming (20 individuals). However, the abundance of macro-moths and threatened moths was similar under enhanced ELS (macro: 126; threatened: 6 individuals), standard ELS (macro: 79; threatened: 5 individuals) and conventional farming (macro: 79; threatened: 6 individuals). Species richness of all groups was similar under enhanced ELS (macro: 20; micro: 11; threatened: 3 species), standard ELS (macro: 20; micro: 8; threatened: 2 species) and conventional farming (macro: 18; micro: 5; threatened: 2 species) (butterfly data not presented). In 2005, a 1,000-ha farm was divided into five 180-ha blocks. Three 60-ha areas/block were assigned to three treatments: enhanced ELS (5% land removed from production); standard ELS (1% land removed from production); and conventional farming (see paper for details). From May–August 2006–2011, butterflies were recorded four times/year on one 50-m transect/60-ha area, passing through all available habitats. In late-May 2007–2011 and late-July 2006–2011 moths were surveyed using Robinson light traps. One block was surveyed/night, with one trap/treatment.

    Study and other actions tested
  23. A replicated, site comparison study in 2006–2009 on 16 arable farms in Oxfordshire, UK (Merckx et al. 2012, same experimental set-up as Merckx et al. 2009a, 2009b, 2010) found that extended-width field margins and margins next to hedgerow trees, which farmers were paid to maintain under agri-environment schemes, had a higher species richness, but not abundance, of macro-moths than standard-width margins and margins away from hedgerow trees, respectively. The species richness of macro-moths in extended-width margins (105 species) was higher than in standard-width margins (92 species), but the abundance was similar (data not presented). Species richness in margins next to hedgerow trees (105 species) was also higher than in margins next to hedgerows without trees (92 species), but abundance was similar (data not presented). Sixteen farms were categorized to one of four treatments, based on their most common agri-environment scheme habitat: extended 6-m-wide or standard 1-m-wide field margins, and with or without hedgerow trees (>15 m high, mostly pedunculated oak Quercus robur). All margins were well-established perennial grass strips, cut once every 2–3 years, ungrazed and unfertilized. From May–October 2006–2009, moths were sampled 40 times (once/fortnight), using three 6 W Heath pattern actinic light traps/farm. Traps were 1 m from hedgerows (2–3 m high, 1.5–2.5 m wide), 5 m from trees (if applicable), >50 m from hedgerow intersections, >100 m apart, and operated from dawn to dusk. Three farms (nine traps) were sampled/night.

    Study and other actions tested
  24. A replicated, site comparison study in 1995–2011 in 850 sites across England, UK (Oliver 2014) found that sites surrounded by a larger area or greater number of individual agri-environment scheme (AES) options targeted at butterflies had more butterflies than sites surrounded by a smaller area or fewer individual AES options. There were more butterflies on sites with more AES options in the surrounding 3 km than on sites surrounded by fewer AES options (data presented as model results). However, the introduction of AES schemes near to individual sites did not alter local butterfly population trends (data presented as model results). Three agri-environment schemes, Environmentally Sensitive Areas (open from 1987–2005), Countryside Stewardship Scheme (1991–2005) and Environmental Stewardship (2005 onwards), were used to pay landowners for managing wildlife habitat on their land. The area of land managed to benefit butterflies under AES, and the number of individual AES options in place, around each survey site was calculated. Options for butterflies included conservation headlands, hedge planting or restoration, pollen and nectar mixes, and species-rich, semi-natural grassland. From 1995–2011, butterflies were surveyed once/week throughout the flight season (up to 26 weeks) along fixed transects at 451 sites as part of the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. In July–August 2010–2011, butterflies were surveyed at least twice/year on two parallel transects within 399 1-km squares as part of the Wider Countryside Butterfly Monitoring Scheme.

    Study and other actions tested
  25. A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 2007–2010 on 28 arable farms in Wessex and East Anglia, UK (Holland et al. 2015) found that farms with enhanced agri-environment scheme (AES) habitats had a higher abundance of some butterfly species than farms with simpler AES habitats. In early summer, farms with enhanced AES habitats had a higher abundance of blue (Lycaenidae: 0.05 individuals/100 m) and white (Pieridae: 0.46 individuals/100 m) butterflies along boundaries than farms with Entry Level Scheme (ELS) habitats (blues: 0.04; whites 0.21 individuals/100 m), but a lower abundance of skippers (Hesperiidae) in the AES habitat itself (enhanced: 0.00; ELS: 0.02 individuals/100 m). In mid-summer, enhanced AES farms had a higher abundance of white butterflies (0.69 individuals/100 m), but a lower abundance of brown butterflies (Satyridae: 0.16 individuals/100 m) in the AES habitat, and a lower abundance of blue butterflies (0.05 individuals/100 m) along boundaries than ELS farms (whites: 0.38; browns: 0.49; blues: 0.11 individuals/100 m). In spring 2007, twenty-four farms (12 in East Anglia and 12 in Wessex) were randomly assigned to two treatments: 16 farms with enhanced AES habitat (1.5–6.0 ha of floristically-enhanced grass mixes, wildflower strips, wild bird seed mixes and natural regeneration by annual cultivation); and eight farms with ELS habitat (1.5–6.0 ha of grass margins and game cover (usually maize)). Two additional ELS farms/region, already managed organically with 1.5 ha of ELS habitat, were also studied. From 2008–2010, butterflies were surveyed twice/year on 11 fixed 100-m transects, in mid-May–mid-June and mid-July–early August. Eight transects/site were located in AES habitat, and three transects/site were located on field boundaries away from the AES habitat.

    Study and other actions tested
  26. A replicated, paired, site comparison study in 2015 on 22 farms in Berkshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire, UK (Alison et al. 2017) found that grassland restored through agri-environment schemes supported more moths than unrestored arable fields, and was similar to semi-natural grassland sites. Three to 20 years after restoration, the abundance of moths associated with calcareous grassland (6.3 individuals/trap) and other grassland (49.6 individuals/trap) on restored fields were higher than on arable fields (calcareous: 0.8; other: 14.6 individuals/trap), and similar to semi-natural grassland (calcareous: 7.2; other: 38.3 individuals/trap). The abundance of moths associated with other habitats was higher on restored (25.5 individuals/trap) than unrestored fields (15.3 individuals/trap), but lower than on semi-natural grassland sites (57.9 individuals/trap). Results for species occurrence were similar (data not presented). However, neither moth abundance nor occurrence increased with time since restoration (data not presented). Over 3–20 years, 32 former arable fields (2.6–37.5 ha) on 22 farms were restored to species-rich grassland by either natural regeneration or sowing of wildflowers, paid for by agri-environment schemes. All were cut or grazed at least once/year. Thirty-two paired, arable fields (2.2–49.3 ha) were unrestored, and eight semi-natural calcareous grasslands were used for comparison. On 21 nights between June–September 2015, moths were surveyed twice/site (2–4 restored-unrestored pairs/night, with a comparison site on >50% of nights) using one 15 W light trap in the centre of each field. Moths were classified as species associated with calcareous grassland, associated with grassland generally, or not associated with grassland.

    Study and other actions tested
  27. A replicated, site comparison study in 2009–2014 in eight farm set-asides and two native prairies in Wisconsin, USA (Kleintjes et al. 2017) found that set-aside fields which landowners were paid to sow with grasses and non-woody broadleaved plants (forbs) had a similar number of butterflies to native prairies in the first year, but lower numbers after 2–5 years. For the first year after establishment, set-aside areas had a similar number of butterflies (8–52 butterflies/200 m) to native prairie (5–42 butterflies/200 m). However, 2–5 years after establishment, the number of butterflies on set-aside (5–20 butterflies/200 m) was lower than in native prairie (22–68 butterflies/200 m). The total number of species recorded on set-aside (31 species, of which six were not seen on prairies) was similar to prairie sites (35 species, of which 10 were not seen on set-aside). In spring 2009, fields (average 6.8 ha) on eight farms enrolled in a set-aside program were pre-treated with glyphosate and seeded with a mix of six grasses and 11 forbs using a no-till seed drill. They were compared with two native dry sand prairies in a powerline right-of-way, managed to suppress woody vegetation. From May–August 2009–2012, butterflies were surveyed 2–4 times/year on one 200-m transect/farm. In 2013–2014, just four farms and the two native prairies were surveyed twice/year.

    Study and other actions tested
  28. A replicated, site comparison study in 2009–2011 in 133 mixed farms in the Central Plateau, Switzerland (Stoeckli et al. 2017) found that farms with more land managed under agri-environment schemes (AES) had a higher abundance, but not species richness, of butterflies than farms with less land under AES. The abundance of butterflies on farms with more land managed under AES was higher than on farms with less land managed under AES, but there was no difference in butterfly species richness (data presented as model results). A total of 133 farms (17–34 ha, 13–91% arable crops) were managed with “Ecological Compensation Areas” under AES. Management included extensive and low-input meadows with reduced fertilizer and later cutting dates, and the presence of trees, hedgerows and wildflower patches. From May–September 2009–2011, butterflies were surveyed six times on 10–38 transects/farm, totalling 2,500 m/farm. Each transect ran diagonally through a single crop or habitat type, with all available crops and habitats represented. All visits to a farm were completed in a single year, and the species richness was summed across all visits. Total abundance of butterflies was calculated from the number recorded in each habitat, and the availability of each habitat across the farm. Ecological Compensation Areas on each farm were mapped between May and August.

    Study and other actions tested
  29. A replicated, before-and-after, site comparison study in 2000–2016 in 10 coppiced forests in Bavaria, Germany (Dolek et al. 2018) found that the number of webs of Eastern eggar moth Eriogaster catax and scarce fritillary Euphydryas maturna caterpillars was higher in recently coppiced woodland, which landowners were paid to manage, than in older woodland. Eastern eggar moth caterpillars were most often found in patches 5–10 years after the last coppice, and their abundance peaked after 5–7 years (data presented as model results). Scarce fritillary caterpillars were most often found in patches 10–12 years after the last coppice, and their abundance peaked after 12–15 years (data presented as model results). Coppicing commenced in 2005 at nine sites (23–310 ha), and in 2012 at a tenth site (80 ha) under a Government-funded scheme. From 2000–2016, caterpillars of Eastern eggar moth and scarce fritillary were surveyed in early May and late July–early August, respectively, by counting their silk-woven webs, in both coppiced and non-coppiced areas at each site. Each site was surveyed 0–5 times before coppicing (2000–2004) and 1–12 times after coppicing (2005–2016).

    Study and other actions tested
  30. A replicated, site comparison study in 2010–2014 in 50 agricultural areas in the Swiss Plateau, Switzerland (Zingg et al. 2018) found that landscapes with a greater proportion of semi-natural habitat, provided through agri-environment schemes (AES), had a higher abundance and species richness of butterflies than landscapes with less semi-natural habitat. Agricultural areas with more than 20% of the land managed under AES had a higher abundance and species richness of all butterflies than areas with less than 10% AES. The abundance of farmland butterflies, and the species richness of threatened butterflies, was higher in landscapes with more AES than in landscapes with less AES (all data presented as model results). Fifty mixed farming areas (1 km2) were selected where 2.5–32.2% of agricultural land was managed under AES (primarily extensive meadows (cut or grazed once/year, no fertilizers or pesticides) and orchards). Butterflies were surveyed seven times along a 2.5-km transect through each 1-km2 area in one of five years (2010–2014). Species were classified as “farmland species” if they occur in open habitat, and “threatened” species if they were listed as Near Threatened, Vulnerable or Critically Endangered on the Swiss RedList.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Bladon A.J., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2022) Butterfly and Moth Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for butterflies and moths. Conservation Evidence Series Synopsis. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

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