, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 269-283
Date: 06 Dec 2007

How do local habitat management and landscape structure at different spatial scales affect fritillary butterfly distribution on fragmented wetlands?

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Abstract

Habitat fragmentation, patch quality and landscape structure are important predictors for species richness. However, conservation strategies targeting single species mainly focus on habitat patches and neglect possible effects of the surrounding landscape. This project assesses the impact of management, habitat fragmentation and landscape structure at different spatial scales on the distribution of three endangered butterfly species, Boloria selene, Boloria titania and Brenthis ino. We selected 36 study sites in the Swiss Alps differing in (1) the proportion of suitable habitat (i.e., wetlands); (2) the proportion of potential dispersal barriers (forest) in the surrounding landscape; (3) altitude; (4) habitat area and (5) management (mowing versus grazing). Three surveys per study site were conducted during the adult flight period to estimate occurrence and density of each species. For the best disperser B. selene the probability of occurrence was positively related to increasing proportion of wetland on a large spatial scale (radius: 4,000 m), for the medium disperser B. ino on an intermediate spatial scale (2,000 m) and for the poorest disperser B. titania on a small spatial scale (1,000 m). Nearby forest did not negatively affect butterfly species distribution but instead enhanced the probability of occurrence and the population density of B. titania. The fen-specialist B. selene had a higher probability of occurrence and higher population densities on grazed compared to mown fens. The altitude of the habitat patches affected the occurrence of the three species and increasing habitat area enhanced the probability of occurrence of B. selene and B. ino. We conclude that, the surrounding landscape is of relevance for species distribution, but management and habitat fragmentation are often more important. We suggest that butterfly conservation should not focus only on a patch scale, but also on a landscape scale, taking into account species-specific dispersal abilities.