Are Czech butterflies disappearing due to farming and forestry (mis)management or climate change?
Scientists warn that some butterfly species are disappearing from the Czech countryside at an alarming rate. But opinion is divided as to the root cause. Some see it as a stemming from intensive farming and forest mismanagement on the local level. Others believe global climate change is to blame.
They say that company, Lesy České republiky, has failed to properly regulate commercial logging and maintain fields and floodplains in designated Protected Landscapes with delicate ecosystems.
Vladimír Krchov, the company’s Director of Forestry and Water Management vehemently rejects the claim.
“While some may follow developments regarding a particular species, we as foresters are looking after entire ecosystems. So our work is not just about one particular species. Inherent to our management approach is to look after the general ecosystem, and that’s what we are doing.”
Lesy České republiky spokesperson Eva Jouklová says the company is well aware of the importance of forest ecosystems in preserving biodiversity. The dwindling butterfly population she says, rather results from drought and mismanagement of the planet – in other words, from climate change.
“When there is not enough water, there are no plants, there are no butterflies and other insects and animals dependent upon specific vegetation. There is simply not enough water, and irrigating meadows is just not feasible.”
Biologist David Storch of Charles University is among those who say the main cause lies not in the management of forests and protected habitats, though it is a factor. He argues it rather stems from intensive large-scale agriculture, including the use of pesticides, which have wiped out hectares of pastures and wetlands off the map.
Dr Storch went on to cite a German study which found that over the past quarter-century, that neighbouring country’s insect population has dropped by three-quarters, mainly due to the expansion of agricultural land.
Invertebrates are especially vulnerable to rapid changes in landscape due to their short life-cycles. Czech scientists say among the butterfly species now most at risk is the Clouded Apollo. Known in Czech as Jasoň dymnivkový, the swallowtail butterfly thrives in flowering meadows. It is longer found in Bohemia, and exceedingly rare in Moravia.