The intensification of agricultural practices throughout the twentieth century has had large detrimental effects on biodiversity and these are likely to increase as the human population rises, with consequent pressure on land. To offset these negative impacts, agri-environment schemes have been widely implemented, offering financial incentives for land-owners to create or maintain favourable habitats that enhance or maintain biodiversity. While some evidence is available on the resulting species richness and abundance for groups such as natural predators, pollinating insects including butterflies and moths, this is costly to obtain and it is difficult to predict the effects of specific habitat designs. To alleviate this problem we here develop an individual-based model (IBM), modelling the detailed movement behaviour, foraging, and energy budget of a grassland butterfly Maniola jurtina Linn. in patches of varying dimensions and quality. The IBM is successfully validated against data on M. jurtina densities, movement behaviour, resource use, fecundity and lifespan in habitats of varying quality. We use the IBM to quantify the benefits for life-history outcomes of M. jurtina of increasing the quantity and the quality of field margins within agricultural landscapes. We find that increasing the quantity of field margin habitat from 1 to 3 ha per 100 ha, as recommended in agri-environment schemes, increases the average number of eggs laid across a two-week period by 60% and adds an extra day to the average lifespan. Similar effects are reported for variation in the quality of field margins. We discuss the implications of the result for modelling butterfly responses to management scenarios.
- Miljö- och naturvårdsvetenskap