Oecologia

ISSN: 0029-8549 (printed version)
ISSN: 1432-1939 (electronic version)

Table of Contents

Abstract Volume 109 Issue 2 (1997) pp 294-302

Early succession of butterfly and plant communities on set-aside fields

I. Steffan-Dewenter, Teja Tscharntke

Fachgebiet Agrarökologie, Georg-August-Universität, Waldweg 26, D-37073 Göttingen, Germany fax: 0551 398806

Received 18 September 1995 / Accepted: 17 July 1996

Abstract Hypotheses on secondary succession of butterfly and plant communities were tested using naturally developed 1- to 4-year-old set-aside fields (n = 16), sown fields (n = 8) and old meadows (n = 4) in 1992 in South Germany. Pioneer successional fields (1st and 2nd year of succession, dominated by annuals) and early successional fields (3rd and 4th year of succession where perennials, especially grasses became dominant) had fewer plant species than mid-successional fields (old meadows). In contrast to established hypotheses, mean number of plant species decreased from 1- to 4-year-old set-aside fields. Species richness of butterfly communities did not change during the first four years of succession, but species composition changed greatly. Pioneer successional fields were characterized by (1) specialized butterflies depending on annual pioneer foodplants (e.g. Issoria lathonia), and (2) species preferring the pioneer successions despite their host plants being more abundant on early and mid-successional fields (e.g. Papilio machaon). The variability in butterfly species richness was best explained by flower abundance which was closely correlated with plant species richness. Species whose abundance was correlated with habitat connectivity were significantly smaller than species which correlated with flower abundance. Numbers of caterpillar species were correlated with numbers of adult butterfly species. Life-history features of butterflies changed significantly from pioneer to early and mid-successional fields. We found decreasing body size and migrational ability, decreasing numbers of species hibernating as imago, decreasing numbers of generations and increasing larval stage duration with age of succession, but, contrary to expectation, host plant specialization, numbers of egg-cluster laying species and egg diameter did not change with successional age.

Key words Succession · Life-history features · Community structure · Butterflies · Set-aside

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