, Volume 27, Issue 8, pp 1109-1120
Date: 11 Jul 2012

Towards a measure of functional connectivity: local synchrony matches small scale movements in a woodland edge butterfly

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This study investigates the sensitivity of local synchrony to movement patterns of the Ringlet butterfly (Aphantopus hyperantus). We examine whether population synchrony, describing the correlated fluctuations of conspecific populations, may prove an effective surrogate measure for monitoring functional connectivity in this species without the requirement of exhaustive sampling. We compared the effect on population synchrony of two different distance measures, direct (Euclidean) distance and distance via woodland rides and edges, and also of habitat matrix composition. Population synchrony of A. hyperantus was calculated as the pairwise correlation between population time-series using 20 years of data from UK butterfly monitoring scheme transects. Local population synchrony was better explained by distance via woodland edges than direct distance, especially for woodland-dominated transects. These results are consistent with mark-recapture data previously collected on the Ringlet butterfly. The results indicate a sensitivity of population synchrony to butterfly local dispersal behaviour, particularly, to the use of habitat corridors and other functional dispersal routes. Population synchrony is considered to have potential as a surrogate measure of functional connectivity. With development, this method could become a valuable conservation tool for identifying important landscape features which promote species’ connectivity.