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The role of power line rights-of-way as an alternative habitat for declined mire butterflies

Lensu, Terhi, Komonen, Atte, Hiltula, Outi, Päivinen, Jussi, Saari, Veli, Kotiaho, Janne S.
Journal of environmental management 2011 v.92 no.10 pp. 2539-2546
butterflies, canopy, community structure, habitat destruction, habitats, lowland forests, microclimate, rights of way, species diversity, trees
Habitat loss is one of the greatest threats for biodiversity. In Finland, two thirds of natural mires have been drained for silviculture, which transforms open wetlands into dense forests. However, vegetation management of power line rights-of-way (ROW) maintain the drained mires as open areas. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of the power line ROW vegetation management on butterfly abundance, species richness and community structure by comparing the managed power line ROWs to unmanaged drained control sites and to natural mires. The species richness or abundance of mire butterflies did not differ between the power line ROWs and natural mires. In contrast, both species richness and abundance of butterflies was low on the unmanaged control sites. Tree canopy cover had a negative effect on mire butterflies and this is most likely related to changes in microclimate. The results indicate that the active vegetation removal in the power line ROWs maintain alternative habitats for mire butterflies; yet, the power line ROWs cannot substitute the natural mires.