Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 271–277 | Cite as

Patch occupancy in the endangered butterfly Lycaena helle in a fragmented landscape: effects of habitat quality, patch size and isolation

  • Stephanie S. Bauerfeind
  • Anett Theisen
  • Klaus Fischer
Original Paper


While there is agreement that both habitat quality and habitat network characteristics (such as patch size and isolation) contribute to the occupancy of patches by any given species, the relative importance of these factors is under debate. This issue is of fundamental ecological importance, and moreover of special concern for conservation biologists aiming at preserving endangered species. Against this background we investigated patch occupancy in the violet copper Lycaena helle, one of the rarest butterfly species in Central Europe, in the Westerwald area (Rhineland-Palatinate, Western Germany). Occupied (n = 102) differed from vacant (n = 128) patches in altitude, size, connectivity, availability of wind shelter, in the abundance of the larval host-plant, in the abundance of a grass species indicating favorable habitat conditions and in the abundance of nitrophilous plants. Overall, patch occupancy was primarily determined by patch size, connectivity and the abundance of the larval host plant, while all other parameters of habitat quality were of subordinate importance. Therefore, our findings suggest that even for extremely sedentary species such as L. helle habitat networks are decisive and—next to the preservation of habitat quality—need to be an integral part of any conservation management for this species.


Habitat network Conservation biology Metapopulation Butterfly Bistorta officinalis 



We thank the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Rhineland-Palatinate/Germany for financial support (fellowship to AD). SSB and KF were funded by the German Research Council during this study (DFG grant no. Fi 846/1-2, 846/1-3, and 846/1-4 to KF).


  1. Anthes N, Fartmann T, Hermann G, Kaule G (2003) Combining larval habitat quality and metapopulation structure – the key for successful management of pre-alpine Euphydryas aurinia colonies. J Insect Conserv 7:175–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Armstrong DP (2005) Integrating the metapopulation and habitat paradigms for understanding broad-scale declines of species. Conserv Biol 19:1402–1410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baguette M (2003) Long distance dispersal and landscape occupancy in a metapopulation of the cranberry fritillary butterfly. Ecography 26:153–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bender DJ, Contreras TA, Fahrig L (1998) Habitat loss and population decline: a meta-analysis of the patch size effect. Ecology 79:517–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Betzholtz P-E, Ehrig A, Lindeborg M, Dinnétz P (2007) Food plant density, patch isolation and vegetation height determine occurrence in a Swedish metapopulation of the marsh fritillary Euphydryas aurinia (Rottemburg, 1775) (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae). J Insect Conserv 11:343–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Binzenhöfer B, Schröder B, Strauss B, Biedermann R, Settele J (2005) Habitat models and habitat connectivity analysis for butterflies and burnet moths—the example of Zygaena carniolica and Coenonympha arcania. Biol Conserv 126:247–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Binzenhöfer B, Biedermann R, Settele J, Schroeder B (2008) Connectivity compensates for low habitat quality and small patch size in the butterfly Cupido minimus. Ecol Res 23:259–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bourn NAD, Thomas JA (1993) The ecology and conservation of the brown argus butterfly Aricia agestis in Britain. Biol Conserv 63:67–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dennis RLH, Eales HT (1997) Patch occupancy in Coenonympha tullia (Müller, 1764) (Lepidoptera: Satyrinae): habitat quality matters as much as patch size and isolation. J Insect Conserv 1:167–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dennis RLH, Eales HT (1999) Probability of site occupancy in the large heath butterfly Coenonympha tullia determined from geographical and ecological data. Biol Conserv 87:295–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dennis RLH, Hardy PB (2007) Support for mending the matrix: resource seeking by butterflies in apparent non-resource zones. J Insect Conserv 11:157–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dennis RLH, Shreeve TG (1996) Butterflies on British and Irish Offshore Islands. Gem Publishing Company, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  13. Dennis RLH, Sparks TH (2006) When is a habitat not a habitat? Dramatic resource use changes under differing weather conditions for the butterfly Plebejus argus. Biol Conserv 129:291–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dennis RLH, Shreeve TG, van Dyck H (2006) Habitats and resources: the need for a resource-based definition to conserve butterflies. Biodivers Conserv 15:1943–1966CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dover JW, Sparks TH, Greatorex-Davies JN (1997) The importance of shelter for butterflies in open landscapes. J Insect Conserv 1:89–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ebert G, Rennwald E (1993) Die Schmetterlinge Baden-Württembergs, Tagfalter. Ulmer Verlag, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  17. Elligsen H, Beinlich B, Plachter H (1997) Effects of large scale grazing on populations of Coenonympha glycerion and Lasiommata megera (Lepidoptera: Satyridae). J Insect Conserv 1:13–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fischer K, Beinlich B, Plachter H (1999) Population structure, mobility and habitat preferences of the violet copper Lycaena helle (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) in Western Germany: implications for conservation. J Insect Cons 3:43–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hanski I (1994) Patch-occupancy dynamics in fragmented landscapes. Trends Ecol Evol 9:131–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hanski I (1998) Metapopulation ecology. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  21. Hanski I (2001) Spatially realistic theory of metapopulation ecology. Naturwissenschaften 88:372–381PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hanski I, Pakkala T, Kuussaari M, Lei G (1995) Metapopulation persistence of an endangered butterfly in a fragmented landscape. Oikos 72:21–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Haynes KJ, Dillemuth FP, Anderson BJ, Hakes AS, Jackson HB, Jackson SE, Cronin JT (2007) Landscape context outweighs local habitat quality in its effects on herbivore dispersal and distribution. Oecologia 151:431–441PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hill JK, Thomas CD, Lewis OT (1996) Effects of habitat patch size and isolation on dispersal by Hesperia comma butterflies: implications for metapopulation structure. J Anim Ecol 65:725–735CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Krauss J, Steffan-Dewenter I, Tscharntke T (2003) Local species immigration, extinction, and turnover of butterflies in relation to habitat area and habitat isolation. Oecologia 137:591–602PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Krauss J, Steffan-Dewenter I, Tscharntke T (2004) Landscape occupancy and local population size depends on host plant distribution in the butterfly Cupido minimus. Biol Conserv 120:355–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Maes D, Shreeve TG, Dennis RLH (2006) A special issue on insect habitats. J Insect Conserv 10:1089–1093Google Scholar
  28. Moilanen A, Nieminen M (2002) Simple connectivity measures in spatial ecology. Ecology 83:1131–1145Google Scholar
  29. New TR (2007) Understanding the requirements of the insects we seek to conserve. J Insect Conserv 11:95–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nowicki P, Pepkowska A, Kudlek J, Skórka P, Witek M, Settele J, Woyciechowski M (2007) From metapopulation theory to conservation recommendations: lessons from spatial occurrence and abundance patterns of Maculinea butterflies. Biol Conserv 140:119–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ockinger E (2006) Possible metapopulation structure of the threatened butterfly Pyrgus armoricanus in Sweden. J Insect Conserv 10:43–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sabel K-J, Fischer E (1992) Boden- und vegetationsgeographische Untersuchungen im Westerwald. Frankfurter geowiss. Arbeiten D 7:1–268Google Scholar
  33. Sawchik J, Dufrêne M, Lebrun P (2003) Estimation of habitat quality based on plant community, and effects of isolation in a network of butterfly habitat patches. Acta Oecologia 24:25–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schultz CB, Crone EE (2004) Patch size and connectivity thresholds for butterfly habitat restoration. Conserv Biol 19:887–896CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Scion Corporation (2000) Scion Image, Release Beta 4.02. Maryland, USAGoogle Scholar
  36. Smallidge PJ, Leopold DJ (1997) Vegetation management for the maintenance and conservation of butterfly habitats in temperate human-dominated landscapes. Landscape Urban Plan 38:259–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. StatSoft Inc. (2003) Statistica for Windows. Version 6.1. Tulsa, USAGoogle Scholar
  38. Thomas CD, Thomas JA, Warren MS (1992) Distributions of occupied and vacant butterfly habitats in fragmented landscapes. Oecologia 92:563–567CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Thomas JA, Bourn NAD, Clarke RT, Stewart RT, Simcox DJ, Pearman GS, Curtis R, Goodger B (2001) The quality and isolation of habitat patches both determine where butterflies persist in fragmented landscapes. Proc R Soc Lond B 268:1791–1796CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Van Swaay CAM, Warren MS (1999) Red Data Book of European Butterflies (Rhopalocera), Nature and Environment No. 99, Council of Europe Publishing, StrasbourgGoogle Scholar
  41. Vandewoestijne S, Martin T, Liégeois S, Baguette M (2004) Dispersal, landscape occupancy and population structure in the butterfly Melanargia galathea. Basic Appl Ecol 5:581–591CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Weidemann HJ (1995) Tagfalter beobachten, bestimmen. Naturbuch, AugsburgGoogle Scholar
  43. Wenzel M, Schmitt T, Weitzel M, Seitz A (2006) The severe decline of butterflies on western German calcerous grasslands during the last 30 years: a conservation problem. Biol Conserv 128:542–552CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wynne IR, Loxdale HD, Brookes CP, Woiwood IP (2003) Genetic structure of fragmented November moth (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) populations in farmland. Biol J Linn Soc 78:467–477CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephanie S. Bauerfeind
    • 1
  • Anett Theisen
    • 2
  • Klaus Fischer
    • 1
  1. 1.Zoological Institute and MuseumUniversity of GreifswaldGreifswaldGermany
  2. 2.Department of Animal Ecology IUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany

Personalised recommendations