1. Declines in area and quality of species-rich mesotrophic and calcareous grasslands have occurred all across Europe. While the European Union has promoted schemes to restore these grasslands, the emphasis for management has remained largely focused on plants. Here we focus on restoration of the phytophagous beetles of these grasslands. Although local management, particularly that which promotes the establishment of host plants, is key to restoration success, dispersal limitation is also likely to be an important limiting factor during the restoration of phytophagous beetle assemblages.
2. Using a 3-year multi-site experiment, we investigated how restoration success of phytophagous beetles was affected by hay-spreading management (intended to introduce target plant species), success in restoration of the plant communities and the landscape context within which restoration was attempted.
3. Restoration success of the plants was greatest where green hay spreading had been used to introduce seeds into restoration sites. Beetle restoration success increased over time, although hay-spreading had no direct effect. However, restoration success of the beetles was positively correlated with restoration success of the plants.
4. Overall restoration success of the phytophagous beetles was positively correlated with the proportion of species-rich grassland in the landscape, as was the restoration success of the polyphagous beetles. Restoration success for beetles capable of flight and those showing oligophagous host plant specialism were also positively correlated with connectivity to species-rich grasslands. There was no indication that beetles not capable of flight showed greater dependence on landscape scale factors than flying species.
5.Synthesis and applications. Increasing the similarity of the plant community at restoration sites to target species-rich grasslands will promote restoration success for the phytophagous beetles. However, landscape context is also important, with restoration being approximately twice as successful in those landscapes containing high as opposed to low proportions of species-rich grassland. By targeting grassland restoration within landscapes containing high proportions of species-rich grassland, dispersal limitation problems associated with restoration for invertebrate assemblages are more likely to be overcome.