Importance of semi-natural habitats for the conservation of butterfly communities in landscapes dominated by pine plantations
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- van Halder, I., Barbaro, L., Corcket, E. et al. Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17: 1149. doi:10.1007/s10531-007-9264-5
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While the area of plantation forests continues to increase worldwide, their contribution to the conservation of biodiversity is still controversial. There is a particular concern on the central role played by natural habitat remnants embedded within the plantation matrix in conserving species-rich insect communities. We surveyed butterflies in maritime pine plantation landscapes in south-western France in 83 plots belonging to seven habitat types (five successional stages of pine stands, native deciduous woodlands and herbaceous firebreaks). The effect of plot, habitat and landscape attributes on butterfly species richness, community composition and individual species were analysed with a General Linear Model (GLM), partial Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA) and the IndVal method. The most important factors determining butterfly diversity and community composition were the presence of semi-natural habitats (deciduous woodlands and firebreaks) at the landscape scale and the composition of understorey vegetation at the plot scale. Pure effects of plot variables explained the largest part of community variation (12.8%), but landscape factors explained an additional, independent part (6.7%). Firebreaks were characterized by a higher species richness and both firebreaks and deciduous woodlands harboured species not or rarely found in pine stands. Despite the forest-dominated landscape, typical forest butterflies were rare and mainly found in the deciduous woodlands. Threatened species, such as Coenonympha oedippus and Euphydryas aurinia, were found in pine stands and in firebreaks, but were more abundant in the latter. In the studied plantation forest, the conservation of butterflies depends mainly on the preservation of semi-natural habitats, an adequate understorey management and the maintenance of soil moisture levels.