Recent trends in butterfly populations from north-east Spain and Andorra in the light of habitat and climate change
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- Stefanescu, C., Torre, I., Jubany, J. et al. J Insect Conserv (2011) 15: 83. doi:10.1007/s10841-010-9325-z
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Although butterfly declines have been reported across Europe, no assessment based on detailed quantitative data has ever been made for any extensive area in the Mediterranean Basin. In 1994, a Butterfly Monitoring Scheme was launched in Catalonia (NE Spain), and in 2005 a similar, albeit much smaller, scheme started in the neighbouring Pyrenean country of Andorra. Here we provide a first thorough assessment of butterfly trends in both areas for the last 15 years. Several patterns emerged, above all a worrying decline of a substantial part of the fauna. It was also evident that habitat specialists are experiencing greater declines than habitat generalists, thereby butterfly communities becoming progressively dominated by common species. However, habitat indicators based on characteristic species also revealed that trends are actually associated with habitat types, grassland and scrub specialists declining strongly but woodland specialists showing a marginal increase. These differences are certainly related to profound landscape changes, mainly a dramatic reduction of semi-natural grasslands and open Mediterranean scrub, and a major increase in woodlands. The general effect of climatic warming on butterfly populations was investigated by using the temperature community index (CTI) approach. The thermal structure of butterfly communities remained very stable over time, except in one case where, contrary to the expectations, a significant negative trend in the CTI was noted. However, this surprising result can be explained by taking into account the above-reported pattern of butterfly communities becoming dominated by common species, characterized by low thermal indices in comparison with declining Mediterranean specialists.