Main objectives

  1. to increase knowledge in inter- and intra-specific variation in the functional ecology of Maculinea systems across Europe
  2. to assess the suitability of Maculinea butterflies as indicators of biodiversity along a European transect
  3. to develop standards for monitoring Maculinea butterflies as indicators and tools for grasslands and their management
  4. to promulgate and exploit these monitoring standards.

Collaborative research is being conducted by a European network of 8 project partners within 6 countries. Research results pooled from a European transect will provide a more holistic and integrative approach than previously attempted and should be able to detect patterns recurring at a European level from those which are more local. We are investigating whether 'single-species' conservation measures, based on the known requirements of the 5 Maculinea species, create suitable conditions for other characteristic species in their communities, i.e. those of similar 'functional type'.

The response of Maculinea, a group of extremely sensitive and highly specialised butterflies to changing grassland habitats could be a crucial indicator to employ corrective measures in the management of endangered grasslands and to mitigate any adverse effects from anthropogenic habitat manipulation. We will explore how the research results derived from such a network could assist land managers to design and manage grasslands for high biodiversity.

Within the MACMAN project framework we will test (i) our ability to define, restore and manage Maculinea-type habitats at different latitudes in Europe; (ii) whether the size, isolation and quality of individual sites results in rates of occupancy predicted for all species by metapopulation models; and (iii) whether management for the host ants and the specific stages that they require within grassland successions, result in the predicted large increases in biodiversity. One of the outcomes from the MACMAN project will be a set of baseline data on distribution patterns and ecological needs of Maculinea across a European gradient which will facilitate long-term monitoring on Maculinea grassland sites.

The scientific questions answered during the run-time of the project should provide guidelines on the management of grasslands for high biodiversity for land users and managers. These can be grouped into three types, each requiring a separate strategy for dissemination:

  1. Population ecologists and conservation scientists
  2. Governmental conservation and land management organisations, NGOs, EIA specialists, farmers
  3. The general public

Understanding the direct and indirect relationships between Maculinea systems and the wider community of species on their sites, we expect to demonstrate that our study-systems can be used as more subtle indicators of both habitat degradation and optimum site management in different parts of Europe, enabling us to establish trends in landscape use and warning us of possible changes in populations of other species.

Work Packages