Is AC good for our environment


The intensification of agriculture and the abandonment of extensively used areas are leading to the disappearance of species-rich habitats and thus a decline in insects. Butterflies react particularly sensitively to these environmental changes and thus reflect the state of their - and our environment - as a current study by the Paris Lodron University of Salzburg in cooperation with the Haus der Natur Salzburg shows.

Butterflies are a symbol of transformation, of arising and passing away.

Butterflies are short-lived and fragile. Many butterfly species require very specific habitats and feed on special plants as caterpillars. They therefore react extremely sensitively to changes in the environment. Thus, they are optimal indicators of changes and show us the creeping destruction of species-rich habitats. They are a mirror of the state of our landscape.

Unfortunately, many butterfly species in Austria, as in most of Europe, are not doing particularly well. Their stocks have declined by more than half over the past few decades. A good half of all butterflies in the Salzburger Land are in a critical state of conservation. A third of the butterfly species can no longer be found in the Alpine foothills and in the Salzburg Basin.

This negative trend has now been confirmed in a current study by scientists led by Jan Christian Habel (Zoological Evolutionary Biology) from the University of Salzburg in collaboration with the House of Nature for the Salzburg region. In this study, the butterfly fauna and the respective land use were analyzed for the entire state over the past 40 years. The diversity of butterflies has decreased dramatically over the last 40 years, especially in the lower elevations, while the butterflies are still doing comparatively well in the higher elevations. The lowlands are particularly hard hit by urban sprawl and agricultural intensification. In the higher altitudes, where the slopes are very steep and therefore agricultural intensification is not possible, the populations of most butterfly species are still relatively stable.

In addition to intensification, the abandonment of previously extensively farmed areas is also leading to a decline in biodiversity. As a result, these species-rich habitats become overgrown and the formerly diverse mosaic of meadows and forests disappears.

In order to preserve biodiversity, the protection of species-rich habitats is a prerequisite.

Securing individual small nature reserves is by no means sufficient. The study emphasizes that the entire landscape must be considered for efficient biodiversity protection, since species such as butterflies can only survive in the long term in intact networks, beyond the boundaries of individual habitat islands. Butterflies are sensitive to environmental changes and are an early warning system for the condition of their habitats - and the landscape in which we live.


Habel JC, Teucher M, Gros P, Schmitt T, Ulrich W (2021) Land use and climate change affects butterfly diversity across northern Austria. Landscape Ecology. DOI: 10.1007 / s10980-021-01242-6.

More information on Jan Habel:

Prof. Dr. Jan Christian Habel

Evolutionary Zoology

Paris Lodron University of Salzburg I Department of Life Sciences

Tel: +43 662 8044 5620

Email to Prof. Dr. Jan Christian Habel

Jan Habel I Photo: © Kolarik