The Slovenian Alpine meadows are of such biodiversity but each butterfly is tied to the location of its preferred food plant which is in turn tied to its preferred geology, aspect and other environmental conditions.
What intrigues me is that the local farmers need have no idea which plant is associated with which butterfly but there actions and timings of the first hay cut are vital to the survival of some superb examples of the Worlds most important habitats.
The local ecosystem has stabilised long ago with farming practice, hay production, plant propagation and butterfly metamorphosis evolving and locking together in equilibrium, in an essentially simple, ordered way (to apply cynefin framework thinking). I cannot help then worry that they are drifting precociously towards the chaotic, unordered domain as they are so dependent on each other and might fall like dominoes if that equilibrium is threatened by change.
The warning signs are everywhere; slopes which have been partly improved by the good intentional application of manure have lost all their diversity and become long dark green (a key indicator) succulent grasses, possibly ideal for cattle feed but totally out-competing the ‘special interest’ species.
Higher mountain slopes were formally grazed by up to 200 goats now have only 20 and as a result the tree line is rapidly descending down the slope and shading out all ground level plants and species, resulting ultimately in a dense forest habitat already present over more than 80% of the lower slopes.
At least part of the ‘controlling’ feedback is cultural/story based. The Slovenians have adopted the towel rail hayrack as their heritage symbol (and claimed as unique ethical architecture) , the flowerful meadows and butterflies are a major part of the regions attractiveness, the coloured bee hives feature on ancient woodcuts and they have found a point of stasis which to my eyes looks to be a very appealing and harmonious way to live.
My colleagues thought I had gone mad when in a single day I had spotted a young boy taking his cow to market, the woodcutter returning to chop wood after lunch and a gingerbread house far inside the thick undergrowth.