While European environmentalists see quarries as scars in the Earth, these industrial operations may actually play a critical role in preserving rare species. New research shows that quarries provide the only suitable habitat for at-risk butterflies in some places, suggesting that current policies of filling in old quarries are misguided.
"Increasing evidence is revealing the counterproductivity of such practices," say Jiri Benes, Pavel Kepka and Martin Konvicka, all of the University of South Bohemia in Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic, in the August issue of Conservation Biology.
Throughout Europe, butterflies that depend on warm, dry areas have declined because many of the steppe-like grasslands that provide this habitat have been lost to intensified agriculture, conifer plantations and urbanization. Two of the researchers (Benes and Konvicka) have been butterfly enthusiasts since childhood and noticed as high school students that many steppe grassland species were essentially found only in quarries in the Czech Republics Moravian Gate, one of Europes most important north-south migration corridors. Thus, the researchers were concerned that these butterflies would be further threatened by the Czech Republics policy of reclaiming old quarries, which usually means covering them with topsoil and planting trees.
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