Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 411–419 | Cite as

Butterfly community structure and landscape composition in agricultural landscapes of the central United States

  • Timothy D. Meehan
  • Jeffrey Glassberg
  • Claudio Gratton


Agricultural landscapes worldwide are under increased pressure to provide food, feed, fiber, and fuel for a growing human population. These demands are leading to changes in agricultural landscapes and subsequent declines in biodiversity. We used citizen science data from the North American Butterfly Association and remotely-sensed land cover data from the US Department of Agriculture to study relationships between agricultural landscape composition and butterfly community structure in the Midwestern US. Landscape-level butterfly species richness (based on rarefaction estimates) was highest in agricultural landscapes with relatively low amounts of cropland, relatively high amounts of woodland, and intermediate amounts of grassland and wetland. Rarefied richness generally declined with the dominance of any of these land cover types. Unlike other land cover types, urban development had a consistent negative effect on rarefied richness. Butterfly community structure (based on relative abundance) was also significantly related to the amount of cropland, woodland, grassland, and wetland in the landscape. The rarest butterfly species were associated with woodland-, grassland-, and wetland-dominated landscapes, likely due to their association with plant species occurring in savannahs, prairies, and marshes, respectively. Assuming that variation across space reflects changes over time, our results support conclusions from previous studies that removal of natural and seminatural habitats alters butterfly community structure and decreases species diversity in agricultural landscapes.


Lepidoptera Species richness Community structure Landscape composition Agriculture 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy D. Meehan
    • 1
  • Jeffrey Glassberg
    • 2
  • Claudio Gratton
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Entomology, Great Lakes Bioenergy Research CenterUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.North American Butterfly AssociationMorristownUSA

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