Effects of grassland abandonment, restoration and management on butterflies and vascular plants

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


When semi-natural pastures are abandoned, specialized grassland species are lost as a consequence of succession. As a counter-measure, previously abandoned grasslands may be restored by clearing shrubs and trees and re-introducing grazing livestock. In order to examine the effects of this type of habitat restoration, we compared species richness of plants and of specialized plants thought to be dependent on continuous management and species richness and abundance of butterflies and red-listed butterflies in 12 sets of matched continuously managed, abandoned and restored grassland in southern Sweden. We found no differences in species richness or abundance between the three grassland types. There were, however, some negative effects of abandonment. The number of management-dependent plants decreased with increasing cover of trees and shrubs, and in restored sites species richness of all groups decreased with increasing cover of trees and shrubs before restoration. Also the present management significantly affected both butterflies and plants. Species richness of both groups increased with increasing vegetation height and differed between sites depending on the species of grazers, with negative effects of sheep compared to cattle or horses. Our study indicates that for grassland management to be efficient, the restoration actions should mainly be directed towards sites where the post-abandonment succession has not proceeded too far.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology


  • Habitat restoration, Lepidoptera, Grazing, Semi-natural pastures, Species richness, Succession
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-300
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Publication categoryResearch