Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 321–337

Effects of urbanization on butterfly species richness, guild structure, and rarity


  • Peter J. Clark
    • Department of BiologyTufts University
    • Department of BiologyTufts University
  • Frances S. Chew
    • Department of BiologyTufts University

DOI: 10.1007/s11252-007-0029-4

Cite this article as:
Clark, P.J., Reed, J.M. & Chew, F.S. Urban Ecosyst (2007) 10: 321. doi:10.1007/s11252-007-0029-4


We evaluated the effects of landscape characteristics associated with urbanization, as well as local features, on butterfly species richness at four spatial scales (50, 150, 500, and 1,000 m from survey plots). We also evaluated these effects separately by butterfly guilds based on their region-wide rarity and on degree of specialization. The distribution of abundances of the 44 species observed showed an excess of uncommon species compared to a log-normal distribution, and the two most abundant species were exotic (Thymelicus lineola and Pieris rapae). We used an information theoretic approach to model selection to determine the most important correlates of butterfly species richness. Models of mean butterfly richness per visit explained greater variance than did models of cumulative richness across the season. Cumulative butterfly species richness was affected more at larger spatial scales, while richness per visit was affected similarly at all spatial scales. The most consistent local factor affecting butterfly diversity was the number of nectar producing plants that were flowering. The most consistent landscape-level correlates of species richness were number of people (at small spatial scales) and green space. Measures of increased urbanization were associated with decreased butterfly species richness, and rare and specialized species were most affected. Species that were regionally rare, and those that specialized both in host plants and had few broods, disappeared with declining richness across sites 2.9–4.5 times faster than did generalists and less restricted specialists.


Species diversityUrbanizationSprawlLepidopteraHabitat specialist

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007