Population Ecology

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 203–212 | Cite as

Less input same output: simplified approach for population size assessment in Lepidoptera

  • Piotr NowickiEmail author
  • Anett Richter
  • Uta Glinka
  • Andrea Holzschuh
  • Ulrike Toelke
  • Klaus Henle
  • Michal Woyciechowski
  • Josef Settele
Original Article


With the aim of creating a simplified sampling scheme that would retain the accuracy of standard mark–release–recapture (MRR) sampling, but at a greatly reduced cost, we analysed 23 capture–recapture data sets from spatially closed populations of six Lepidoptera species according to the constrained Cormack–Jolly–Seber models. Subsequently the relationships between the estimates of population parameters were investigated in order to develop a regression equation that would enable us to calculate seasonal population size without sampling the population throughout the entire flight period. The proportion of individuals flying at peak population was highly variable (CV=0.39), but the variation decreased considerably (CV=0.14) after different life span and flight period length were accounted for. Over 90% of the variance of this proportion was explained by the life span:flight period length ratio. Simulations of hypothetical sampling schemes proved that schemes covering the second and third quarter of the flight period performed much better than those restricted to the second quarter only. The accuracy of seasonal population size estimated with the regression equation developed was comparable for intensive schemes (daily sampling) and non-intensive ones (sampling once in 2 or 3 days). We propose a simplified method of surveying butterfly populations that should be based on checking the presence of flying adults at the beginning and end of the flight period to assess its length, and MRR sampling covering its middle part, with intervals between capture days corresponding to the average life span of investigated butterflies.


Butterflies Cormack–Jolly–Seber models Flight period length Life span Mark–release–recapture 



We would like to express our gratitude to Manfred Alban Pfeifer, Alfons Krismann, Piotr Skórka, Madgalena Witek, Kirsten Bisse-Kockelke and Martin Konvicka for providing original capture–recapture data as well as to Sarah Gwillym for linguistic improvements to the manuscript and to countless people for their assistance in fieldwork. Bryan Manly, Jim Nichols and an anonymous referee provided invaluable comments on an earlier version of the paper. The study has been funded by the European Commission within its RTD project MacMan (EVK2-CT-2001-00126) and CoE project IBAES (EVK2-CT-2002-80009).


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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer-Verlag Tokyo 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Piotr Nowicki
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anett Richter
    • 2
  • Uta Glinka
    • 2
  • Andrea Holzschuh
    • 3
  • Ulrike Toelke
    • 4
  • Klaus Henle
    • 5
  • Michal Woyciechowski
    • 1
  • Josef Settele
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Environmental SciencesJagiellonian UniversityKrakówPoland
  2. 2.Department of Community EcologyUFZ Centre for Environmental ResearchHalleGermany
  3. 3.Ecological Field Station FabrikschleichachUniversity of WuerzburgRauhenebrachGermany
  4. 4.Institute of ZoologyMartin-Luther-University Halle-WittenbergHalleGermany
  5. 5.Department of Conservation BiologyUFZ Centre for Environmental ResearchLeipzigGermany

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