By Vlado Vancura
This article is Part 2 of a series on the benefits of grazing for Apollo. You can read Part 1 here.
Forest and shrubs used to cover a much larger territory in Europe than they do today. Each part of Europe has its own history by which the forest was extensively logged and finally removed. In the case of the Carpathian mountains, this process began as early as the 14th century. It was a time when a growing density of human settlements in specific areas created pressure on the forest, with intensive logging that continued for centuries (Fred & Brommer, 2005).
This trend started to change in the last few decades, when large areas of forest were declared as protected areas. The tree line in particular became the subject of strict protection in many mountains in Europe. On top of that, large areas of the recently grazed land were abandoned, sheep were taken away and forest and shrubs spontaneously re-occupied the land. This process dramatically reduced the available habitat for Apollo, and still continues in some parts of Europe.
Active protection – grazing to stabilise the Apollo population
Like several other endangered species, the well-being of Apollo depends to a large extent on appropriate habitat and available food. Large areas which have been favourable for Apollo for several centuries are now more and more occupied by forest and shrubs. Maintaining the locality once inhabited by Apollo by removing trees and bushes have become important management activities.
Removing the bush often creates appropriate conditions, particularly enlarging food-plant resources, for the larvae and butterflies. That activity can create fundamental conditions to support a stable Apollo population.There are arguments that maintaining the Apollo population means keeping and protecting the open landscape as much as possible. This is particularly important in the areas where fragments of the Apollo population have survived.
Grazing is a well-tested method to maintain open landscape and keep the pressure of trees and shrubs succession under the control. Well-managed grazing can significantly contribute to controlling the self-recovery of trees and shrubs and provide favourable habitat important for Apollo, as well as provide food, nutrition and other benefits to Apollo as well as livestock.
Carefully managed grazing is just one practical example of how to support the shrinking Apollo population. Long-term cooperation between nature conservationists and managers of grazing can even help to set up Apollo reintroduction projects and to try to breed completely new colonies of this butterfly. This activity can become an interesting example not only to implement sophisticated grazing methods but also to maintain and support the protection of Parnassius apollo.