, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 593-601
Date: 03 Jan 2009

Local and landscape effects on butterfly density in northern Idaho grasslands and forests

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Understanding butterfly response to landscape context can inform conservation management and planning. We tested whether local-scale resources (host and nectar plants, canopy cover) or landscape context, measured at two scales, better explained the densities of four butterfly species. The density of Coenonympha tullia, which has host plants strongly associated with grassland habitats, was positively correlated with the amount of grassland in 0.5- and 1-km radius landscapes and only occurred in forests when they bordered grasslands. For the other species, Celastrina ladon, Cupido amyntula, and Vanessa cardui, local-scale resources better explained butterfly densities, emphasizing the importance of local habitat quality for butterflies. These three species also used host plants that were distributed more heterogeneously within and among habitat types. Our findings demonstrate the importance of host plant spatial distributions when determining the scale at which butterfly density relates to resources, and we recommend that both these distributions and landscape context be evaluated when developing butterfly monitoring programs, managing for species of concern, or modeling potential habitat.