, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 401-411
Date: 12 Feb 2010

Nymphalid butterfly dispersal among forest fragments at Serra da Canastra National Park, Brazil

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Organisms must possess good dispersal ability to persist in fragmented landscapes, as extinction in habitat patches is frequent and patches must be re-colonised to keep viable metapopulations. Thus, metapopulation maintenance is dependent on patch size and distance, although these affect species differently. In order to evaluate the ability of Nymphalid butterfly species to live in naturally fragmented small forest fragments we marked and released 3,415 butterflies in 16 of these areas separated in two networks at the Serra da Canastra National Park (PNSC), south-eastern Brazil. Subsequent recaptures in different forest fragments enabled us to assess the dispersal rates and distances for several Nymphalid species. Seventeen butterflies from 11 out of the 50 species captured were directly observed to disperse from 500 m to 870 m. Dispersal rates varied between 1 and 7% of the marked individuals and were directly correlated to the mean forewing length of each butterfly species population. The connectivity of the forest fragments through creeks appear to facilitate butterfly dispersal among fragments within micro-basins, as only one out of 50 dispersing individuals was observed to fly from one micro-basin to the other. Several species had viable populations in the small-fragment network. The distance between fragments is crucial as the coarser fragment network was unlikely to sustain viable populations of most of the species. The protection of large forest fragments located outside of the PNSC may be necessary to promote colonization of the smaller forest fragments inside the Park.