Filter strips or buffers are areas of grass or other perennial herbaceous vegetation established along waterways to remove contaminants and sediments from agricultural field runoff. In the heavily cultivated regions of the Midwestern United States, these buffer zones established under the Farm Bill provide important habitat for wildlife such as butterflies. The question of how the landscape context of these plantings influences their use has not been adequately researched. We used multiple regression and Akaike's Information Criteria to determine how habitat width and several landscape-level factors (i.e., landscape composition [total herbaceous cover, amount of developed area, and amount of wooded cover] and configuration [herbaceous edge density]) influenced the abundance and diversity of the butterfly community using filter strips in southwestern Minnesota, USA. Habitat-sensitive butterfly abundance and all richness and diversity measures were positively correlated with filter-strip width. Butterfly abundance was negatively associated with the amount of developed areas (cities, towns, and roads) within the area of a 1-km radius (3.14 km2) surrounding the sites. Percentage of wooded cover in the landscape was an important variable explaining individual species abundance, although the direction of the relationship varied. Our finding that landscape context influences butterfly use of filter strips highlights the importance of landscape-level approaches to wildlife conservation in agroecosystems.
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