Science into practice – how can fundamental science contribute to better management of grasslands for invertebrates?


Nick A. Littlewood, The James Hutton Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK. E-mail:


Abstract.  1. Grasslands are diverse and extensive but are declining in extent in some parts of the globe. Grassland invertebrates can be numerically abundant and are crucial to ecosystem functioning through their roles in herbivory, nutrient cycling and pollination. Most European grasslands are modified through agricultural practices. Indeed, semi-natural grasslands, which often host the most diverse invertebrate assemblages, have suffered catastrophic losses over the last century.

2. Much research exists on grassland management, mainly from Europe, ranging from identifying optimum management of high-quality grasslands through to assessing measures to enhance low-quality grasslands, though most such projects focus solely on the plant assemblage. Monitoring that has been carried out on invertebrates indicates a varied response with invertebrate assemblages often being limited by such factors as lack of habitat connectivity, inappropriate cutting regime and the particular plant species used in enhancement projects.

3. There is a need to promote grassland management that recognises and addresses these key factors whilst also carrying out research into how best to combine the multiple ecosystem services and human benefits that are associated with grasslands.