Original Paper

Journal of Insect Conservation

, 13:593

First online:

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

  • Amy PocewiczAffiliated withThe Nature Conservancy Email author 
  • , Penelope MorganAffiliated withDepartment of Forest Resources, College of Natural Resources, University of Idaho
  • , Sanford D. EigenbrodeAffiliated withDepartment of Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences, College of Agriculture, University of Idaho

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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.


Conservation planning Distance sampling Edge effects Host plant Landscape context