Coastal dunes as important strongholds for the survival of the rare Niobe fritillary (Argynnis niobe)

  • Alexander Salz
  • Thomas Fartmann
Original Paper


We studied the oviposition and larval habitat preferences of the Niobe fritillary (Argynnis niobe) in the dunes of the east Frisian Island Langeoog (German North Sea). By ascertaining habitat quality we are able to assess the minimum habitat size for populations of A. niobe in dune islands. The preferred oviposition and larval habitats were best characterised by a combination of (1) host-plant abundance, (2) host-plant quality and (3) vegetation structure. The oviposition and larval habitats of A. niobe were characterised by low-growing vegetation with bare ground and a warm microclimate. In contrast to the also common V. tricolor ssp. curtisii, the leaves of the host plant V. canina showed a lower C/N ratio, suggesting that differences in plant quality may account for host-plant use. A. niobe seems to depend on very large areas of potential larval habitat, thus explaining its ongoing decline in the increasingly fragmented Central European landscape. Our data indicate that grass encroachment is a major threat for A. niobe in coastal dunes due to its negative impact on microclimate and violet germination. Mosaic top-soil removal and low-intensity grazing should be suitable tools to promote rejuvenation of V. canina.


Butterflies Conservation Habitat quality Host plants Minimum habitat size Vegetation structure 



We would like to thank N. Anthes, G. Hermann, M. WallisDeVries and an anonymous reviewer for valuable comments on the manuscript. We are grateful to the administration of the Wadden Sea National Park of Lower Saxony for providing permission of access and vegetation maps. Thanks for providing distribution data of Argynnis niobe and helpful information to R. Altmüller, H. Andretzke, R. Bolz, M. Bräu, S. Buchholz, S. Caspari, J. Gelbrecht, F. Goosmann, S. Hafner, H. G. Joger, J. Kleinekuhle, D. Koelman, D. Kolligs, A. C. Lange, D. Lück, P. Mansfeld, B. Nannen, R. Ohle, R. Reinhardt, F. Röbbelen, A. Schmidt, P. Schmidt, M. Sommerfeld, M. Stoltze, R. Trusch, J. Voith, H. Wegner.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MünsterGermany
  2. 2.Department of Community Ecology, Institute of Landscape EcologyUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

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