, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 43-52

Population Structure, Mobility and Habitat Preferences of the Violet Copper Lycaena Helle (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) in Western Germany: Implications for Conservation

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We describe population structure, mobility and habitat preferences of the butterfly Lycaena helle using a survey of the populations in the Westerwald area (Western Germany) and mark-recapture techniques. Three out of 83 recorded populations were intensively studied in 1995. In all, 1596 individuals (537 females) were uniquely marked. The average adult residence time was 8 days, the maximum 34 days. L. helle is extremely sedentary. Average distances between first and subsequent captures were 37 and 61 meters for males and females respectively. Population-specific differences are interpreted as being caused by the influence of barriers and corridors. The potential for colonization is regarded as poor, and isolated populations seem to be under a higher risk of extinction than other ones. Preferred habitats were abandoned moist meadows with rich aspects of Polygonum bistorta on sheltered, warm, and humid stands. Owing to the destruction of natural habitats (moorland) L. helle now colonizes almost exclusively anthropogenic ephemeral habitats (abandoned moist meadows) in Central Europe. This results in serious conservation problems, as the biology of the species does not seem to be adapted to a high turn-over rate of habitats.