Because of my work showing how disturbance (i.e. trails created by hikers and bikers as well as scraping the ground with man or machine) creates more habitat for the Ohlone tiger beetles, I love to see studies showing similar results. We show that human activity doesn’t always need to be destructive.
A recent study in Poland by Lenda et al. discovered that gravel pits and the bull-dozing activity in them are benefiting rare grassland butterfly species. The gravel pits are all over Southern Poland, helping to pave parking lots and driveways as well as churn up grasslands. What Lenda and her team found is that while the nearby undisturbed grasslands are housing about 50 butterfly species, the gravel pits have upwards of 71 species, including a couple rare butterfly species, the large grizzled skippers and Adonis blues.
Why do these rare butterflies like to hang out in these gravel pits? Well, it has to do with what butterflies love the most: flowers! The gravel pits create deep trenches that capture water and rain run-off, creating small pools. With water comes plants. The plants thrive in the pools, including many flowering plants, which the butterflies then feast upon. Pretty sweet. However, as you can imagine, if a bulldozer frequently disturbs a pit, the flowers will be destroyed and the butterflies will disappear. Because of this, the butterflies do best in areas that are not often bulldozed, or pits that are abandoned for some time. Hopefully conservationists and scientists can work with the gravel companies to leave some pits for the butterflies.
This is just another example of how we can easily live and thrive with other creatures, we all just need to share our natural resources.