Habitat requirements and dispersal ability of the Spanish Fritillary (Euphydryas desfontainii) in southern Portugal: evidence-based conservation suggestions for an endangered taxon

Abstract

A high level of plant and insect diversity, and more specifically high butterfly diversity characterizes the Mediterranean Basin. However, alarming negative trends have been reported for butterfly populations in that region emphasizing the urgent need to better understand the drivers of their population declines. Habitat specialists of grasslands are strongly affected, mainly by land use change and climate change. Thorough assessments of habitat requirements and dispersal abilities are crucial to establish appropriate conservation measures to counter these threats. Here, we investigate the ecological requirements and dispersal ability of Euphydryas desfontainii, one of Portugal’s rarest butterflies, to develop targeted conservation strategies. The assessment of habitat requirements showed differences between occupied and unoccupied patches in terms of host plant abundance and area. Mark–release–recapture data were used to model demographic parameters: survival rates decreased linearly over the flight period and recruitment followed a parabolic curve with separate peaks for males and females. The movement data were fitted to an inverse power function and used to predict the probability of long-distance dispersal. The obtained probabilities were compared to related checkerspot butterflies and interpreted regarding the structural connectivity of the investigated habitat network. We suggest focusing on the preservation of remaining habitat patches, whilst monitoring and safeguarding that their vegetation structure does provide sufficiently diversified microclimates in order to best conserve E. desfontainii populations.

Publication
Journal of Insect Conservation, (18), 3, pp. 497–508, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10841-014-9655-3
Date
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Frank Pennekamp
Postdoctoral researcher in ecology