CEO of Lepidopterra
About 18% of all butterfly species in Central Europe inhabit gypsum, chalk or limestone grasslands. While these habitats are quite common over the Mediterranean, they become rarer, more isolated and more vulnerable in the north. The main threat to these habitats is fragmentation and loss of grazing. Gradually, they become less diverse and after a few decades turn into scrubs and forests. As a result, almost 75% of these butterfly species in Central Europe are seriously endangered. Like meadows, these habitats are semi-natural, which means that as humans we already know how to care for them.
In 2019, we started a crowdfunding campaign called „Saving Ripart’s Anomalous Blue„. We sowed 30 kg of sainfoin seeds on the southern slopes of gypsum hills in southern Poland, because the disappearance of the host plant was identified as one of the main problems. We are still investigating the situation of this extremely endangered species and are consciously planning further actions. The population of Ripart’s Anomalous Blue (Polyommatus ripartii) from southern Poland is a species entered on the Red List in the CR category, a critically endangered butterfly. It is one of the most isolated species in Europe. The nearest population is about 1000 km away in Serbia and Crimea and there is no continuity of habitat, which means that there is no chance of encountering these populations. This makes the species even more vulnerable as the gene pool is very limited. Ripart’s Anomalous Blue is closely related to Damon Blue (Polyommatus damon). Both have the same habitat and food plant. Damon Blue is currently classified as EX, extinct in Poland. The species has not been seen since 1965, giving a clear picture of the Ripart’s Anomalous Blue’s prospects for the near future.
„Calcareous grasslands play a major, but not always well recognised or understood role for society (production, employment), the environment and biodiversity.
The grasslands are key habitats for many species: herbs, grazing animals, butterflies and reptiles, and many birds. „
Barbara Calaciura and Oliviero Spinelli, Comunità Ambiente
Gypsum, chalk and limestone grasslands are also extremely valuable habitats for other rare blues, including: Turquoise Blue (Polyommatus dorylas), Chequered Blue (Scolitantides orion), Chapman’s Blue (Polyommatus thersites), Adonis Blue (Lysandra bellargus) and Eastern Baton Blue (Pseudophilotes vicrama).
It is worth mentioning that this type of habitat can only be successfully introduced in very specific places that offer alkaline soils and southern slopes. In some cases, disused quarries may offer such conditions, which include shelters, walls and small bodies of water. When rock mining stops, a fascinating process takes place. There is no topsoil, so highly pioneering plants and lichens appear first. Then the place changes and provides more nutrients to other plants. However, it remains highly alkaline, so only certain species can handle it. It creates exceptional conditions for many butterflies and moths, and although the quarries look dead, they are teeming with life. So if you manage a place like this, we can work together to help the biodiversity there.
Railway lines – new way to biodiversity
Used and especially disused railway lines have great potential in recreating the diversity of butterflies and moths.
Rewilding – how to?
Rewilding as a concept is still relatively new in Europe, but it has long been a part of conservation strategies in other regions.