Determining the effect of urbanization on generalist butterfly species diversity in butterfly gardens
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This study investigates the effects of urbanization on local butterfly populations and the role of butterfly gardens in preserving regional butterfly diversity. Data are from 135 butterfly gardens of varying size, location, and number of blooming plants in the Washington DC metropolitan area observed during 2001 and 2002. We investigated the species diversity for comparable gardens in rural, suburban, and urban locations to determine whether the landscape matrix surrounding otherwise suitable habitat affects the diversity found in the habitat. We hypothesized that, once factors such as garden size and number of blooming plant species were taken into account, butterfly diversity for 12 generalist species would decrease as urbanization increased. We found that there were systematic decreases (with one exception) in diversity from rural to suburban to urban gardens only for medium-sized gardens (0.10 to 0.20 ha) with one to ten types of blooming plants, and large gardens (>0.20 ha) with over 20 types of blooming plants. Gardens of other sizes or plant communities showed some decreases in diversity from rural to suburban to urban sites, but these differences were not consistent across the urban/rural gradient. Results of this study indicate that local butterfly diversity is negatively affected by increasing levels of human population, but that the matrix is just one factor determining generalist species diversity.