Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Butterfly diversity along the elevation gradient of Eastern Himalaya, India

  • 708 Accesses

  • 7 Citations

Abstract

The species richness pattern along spatial scales (latitudinal or elevational) forms useful tools in understanding diversity gradients and their underlying mechanisms. Understanding elevational diversity patterns of biodiversity have strong conservation implications. Himalayas are unique systems in exploring such gradients as they harbor tallest mountains in the world. Here, we explored the elevational pattern, its underlying causes, turn over rate and range size distribution of butterflies in Sikkim, Eastern Himalaya, India. We followed fixed width point count method for sampling butterflies covering 1014 points spread over 23 transects along the elevation gradient (300–4700 m) in Sikkim. Data on environmental factors and habitat parameters were obtained from our published literatures of the same study system. During this study we observed a total of 2749 butterflies representing 161 species and six families. Species richness pattern of butterflies followed declining trend along the elevation gradient with a hump at around 1000 m. Various environmental factors and habitat variables correlated strongly with the species richness and abundance of butterflies. Among the set of factors, mean annual temperature and actual evapotranspiration remained the most important determinants reflecting the importance of energy and productivity for butterfly distribution in the Eastern Himalayan elevation gradient. Butterflies showed high turnover along the gradient. Elevational range profile of butterflies showed that around 38.5 % species restricted below 2000 m elevation. We observed that low elevation areas are important for conservation of butterflies in the Eastern Himalaya although entire elevation gradient is crucial for small range-sized species.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

References

  1. Acharya BK, Chettri B (2012) Effect of climate change on birds, herpetofauna and butterflies in Sikkim Himalaya: a preliminary investigation. In: Arawatia ML, Tambe S (eds) Climate change in Sikkim: patterns, impacts and initiatives. IPR Department, Government of Sikkim, Gangtok, pp 141–160

  2. Acharya BK, Vijayan L (2011) Butterflies of Sikkim with reference to elevational gradient in species, abundance, composition, similarity and range size distribution. In: Arawatia ML, Tambe S (eds) Biodiversity of Sikkim: Exploring and conserving a global hotspot. IPR Department, Government of Sikkim, Gangtok, pp 207–220

  3. Acharya BK, Sanders N, Vijayan L, Chettri B (2011a) Elevational gradients in bird diversity in the Eastern Himalaya: an evaluation of distribution patterns and their underlying mechanisms. PLoS One 6:e29097

  4. Acharya BK, Chettri B, Vijayan L (2011b) Distribution pattern of trees along an elevation gradient of Eastern Himalaya, India. Acta Oecol 37:329–336

  5. Ah-Peng C, Wilding N, Kluge J, Descamps-Julien B, Bardat J, Chuah-Petiot M, Strasberg D, Hedderson TAJ (2012) Bryophyte diversity and range size distribution along two altitudinal gradients: continent versus island. Acta Oecol 42:58–65

  6. Aynekulu E, Aerts R, Moonen P, Denich M, Gebrehiwot K, Vågen T, Mekuria W, Boehmer HJ (2012) Altitudinal variation and conservation priorities of vegetation along the Great Rift Valley escarpment, northern Ethiopia. Biodivers Conserv 21:2691–2707

  7. Behera MD, Kushwaha SPS (2007) An analysis of altitudinal behavior of tree species in Subansiri district, Eastern Himalaya. Biodivers Conserv 16:1851–1865

  8. Bhardwaj M, Uniyal VP, Sanyal AK, Singh AP (2012) Butterfly communities along an elevational gradient in the Tons valley, Western Himalayas: implications of rapid assessment for insect conservation. J Asia Pac Entomol 15:207–217

  9. Bharti H, Sharma YP, Bharti M, Pfeiffer M (2013) Ant species richness, endemicity and functional groups, along an elevational gradient in the Himalayas. Asian Myrmecol 5:79–101

  10. Bhatt JP, Manish K, Pandit MK (2012) Elevational gradients in fish diversity in the Himalaya: water discharge is the key driver of distribution patterns. PLoS One 7:e46237

  11. Bhattarai KR, Vetaas OR (2003) Variation in plant species richness of different life forms along a subtropical elevation gradient in the Himalayas, east Nepal. Global Ecol Biogeogr 12:327–340

  12. Bhattarai KR, Vetaas OR, Grytnes JA (2004) Fern species richness along a central Himalayan elevational gradient, Nepal. J Biogeogr 31:389–400

  13. Brehm G, Colwell RK, Kluge J (2007) The role of environment and mid-domain effect on moth species richness along a tropical elevational gradient. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 16:205–219

  14. Cadena CD, Kozak KH, Go´mez JP, Parra JL, McCain CM, Bowie RCK, Carnaval AC, Moritz C, Rahbek C, Roberts TE, Sanders NJ, Schneider CJ, VanDerWal J, Zamudio KR, Graham CH (2012) Latitude, elevational climatic zonation and speciation in New World vertebrates. Proc R Soc B 279:194–201

  15. Caldas A, Robbins RK (2003) Modified pollard transects for assessing tropical butterfly abundance and diversity. Biol Conserv 110:211–219

  16. Chen I-C, Shiu H-J, Benedick S, Holloway JD, Chey VK, Barlow HS, Hill JK, Thomas CD (2009) Elevation increases in moth assemblages over 42 years on a tropical mountain. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106:1479–1483

  17. Chettri B (2007) Distribution and resource use patterns of reptiles along the Teesta valley, Eastern Himalaya, Sikkim, India. Ph.D. Thesis, Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Coimbatore, and Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, India

  18. Chettri B (2010a) A study on the distribution pattern and conservation of amphibians in Sikkim, India. Technical Report, Ashoka Trust for Ecology and Environment, India

  19. Chettri B, Bhupathy S, Acharya BK (2010) Distribution pattern of reptiles along an Eastern Himalayan elevation gradient, India. Acta Oecol 36:16–22

  20. Chettri N (2000) Impact of habitat disturbances on bird and butterfly communities along the Yuksam-Dzongri trail in Khanchendzonga Biosphere Reserve. Ph.D. Thesis, North Bengal University, India

  21. Chettri N (2010b) Cross-taxon congruence in a trekking corridor of Sikkim Himalayas: surrogate analysis for conservation planning. J Nat Conserv 18:75–88

  22. Chong DSL, Mougin E, Gastellu-Etchegorry JP (1993) Relating the global vegetation index to net primary productivity and actual evapotranspiration over Africa. Int J Remote Sens 14:1517–1546

  23. Clarke A, Gaston KJ (2006) Climate, energy and diversity. Proc R Soc B 273:2257–2266

  24. Colwell RK, Rahbek C, Gotelli NJ (2004) The mid-domain effect and species richness patterns: what have we learned so far? Am Nat 163:E1–E23

  25. Craig RJ, Klaver RW (2013) Factors influencing geographic patterns in diversity of forest bird communities of eastern Connecticut, USA. Ecography 36:599–609

  26. Despland E, Humire R, Martín SS (2012) Species richness and phenology of butterflies along an altitude gradient in the desert of Northern Chile. Arct Antarct Alp Res 44:423–431

  27. Ding T-S, Yuan H-W, Geng S, Lin Y-S, Lee P-F (2005) Energy flux, body size and density in relation to bird species richness along an elevational gradient in Taiwan. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 14:299–306

  28. Ding T-S, Yuan H-W, Geng S, Koh C-N, Lee P-F (2006) Macro-scale bird species richness patterns of the East Asian mainland islands: energy, area and isolation. J Biogeogr 33:683–693

  29. Dunn RR, McCain CM, Sanders NJ (2007) When does diversity fit null model predictions? Scale and range size mediate the mid-domain effect. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 16:305–312

  30. Eisenlohr PV, Alves LF, Bernacci LC, Padgurschi MCG, Torres RB, Prata EMB, dos Santos FAM, Assis MA, Ramos E, Rochelle ALC, Martins FR, Campos MCR, Pedroni F, Sanchez M, Pereira LS, Vieira SA, Gomes JAMA, Tamashiro JY, Scaranello MAS, Caron CJ, Joly CA (2013) Disturbances, elevation, topography and spatial proximity drive vegetation patterns along an altitudinal gradient of a top biodiversity hotspot. Biodivers Conserv 22:2767–2783

  31. Eskildsen A, le Roux PC, Heikkinen RK, Høye TT, Kissling WD, Pöyry J, Wisz MS, Luoto M (2013) Testing species distribution models across space and time: high latitude butterflies and recent warming. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 22:1293–1303

  32. Evans KL, Warren PH, Gaston KJ (2005) Species-energy relationships at the macroecological scale: a review of the mechanisms. Biol Rev 80:1–25

  33. Fleishman E, Austin GT, Weiss AD (1998) An empirical test of Rapoport’s rule: elevational gradients in montane butterfly communities. Ecology 79:2482–2493

  34. Foristera ML, McCallb AC, Sanders NJ, Fordycec JA, Thorned JH, O’Briend J, Waetjend DP, Shapiro AM (2010) Compounded effects of climate change and habitat alteration shift patterns of butterfly diversity. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107:2088–2092

  35. Fu C, Wang J, Pu Z, Zhang S, Chen H, Zhao B, Chen J, Wu J (2007) Elevational gradients of diversity for lizards and snakes in the Hengduan Mountains, China. Biodivers Conserv 16:707–726

  36. Garibaldi LA, Kitzberger T, Chaneton EJ (2011) Environmental and genetic control of insect abundance and herbivory along a forest elevational gradient. Oecologia 167:117–129

  37. Gaston KJ (2000) Global patterns in biodiversity. Nature 405:220–227

  38. Gaston KJ, Blackburn TM (2000) Pattern and process in Macroecology. Blackwell Science, Oxford

  39. González-Megías A, Menéndez R, Roy D, Brereton T, Thomas CD (2008) Changes in the composition of British butterfly assemblages over two decades. Glob Change Biol 14:1464–1474

  40. Grytnes JA, Beaman JH (2006) Elevational species richness patterns for vascular plants on Mount Kinabalu, Borneo. J Biogeogr 33:1838–1849

  41. Haribal M (1992) The butterflies of Sikkim Himalaya. Natraj Publishers, Dehradun

  42. Harrison S, Ross S, Lawton JH (1992) Beta diversity on geographic gradients in Britain. J Anim Ecol 67:151–158

  43. Hawkins BA, Diniz-Filho JAF (2002) The mid-domain effect cannot explain the diversity gradient of Nearctic birds. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 11:419–426

  44. Herzog SK, Kessler M, Bach K (2005) The elevational gradient in Andean bird species richness at the local scale: a foothill peak and a high-elevation plateau. Ecography 28:209–222

  45. Herzog SK, Hamel-Leigue AC, Larsen TH, Mann DJ, Soria-Auza RW, Gill BD, Edmonds WD, Spector S (2013) Elevational distribution and conservation biogeography of Phanaeine dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeinae) in Bolivia. PLoS One 8:e64963

  46. Hickling R, Roy DB, Hill JK, Fox R, Thomas CD (2006) The distribution of a wide range of taxonomic groups is expanding polewards. Glob Change Biol 12:450–455

  47. Hunter ML Jr, Yonzon P (1993) Altitudinal distributions of birds, mammals, people, forests, and parks in Nepal. Conserv Biol 7:420–423

  48. Ilian JG, Gutierrez D, Diez SB, Wilson RJ (2012) Elevational trends in butterfly phenology: implications for species responses to climate change. Ecol Entomol 37:134–144

  49. Isaac NJB, Cruickshanks KL, Weddle AM, Rowcliffe M, Brereton TM, Dennis RLH, Shuker DM, Thomas CD (2011) Distance sampling and the challenge of monitoring butterfly populations. Methods Ecol Evol 2:585–594

  50. Jankowski JE, Merkord CL, Rios WF, Cabrera KG, Revilla NS, Silman MR (2012) The relationship of tropical bird communities to tree species composition and vegetation structure along an Andean elevational gradient. J Biogeogr 40:950–962

  51. Jankowski JE, Londoño GA, Robinson SK, Chappell MA (2013) Exploring the role of physiology and biotic interactions in determining elevational ranges of tropical animals. Ecography 36:1–12

  52. Kehimkar I (2008) The Book of Indian Butterflies. Bombay Natural History Society and Oxford University Press, Mumbai

  53. Khuroo AA, Weber E, Malik AH, Reshi ZA, Dar GH (2011) Altitudinal distribution patterns of the native and alien woody flora in Kashmir Himalaya, India. Environ Res 111:967–977

  54. Kluge J, Kessler M, Dunn RR (2006) What drives elevational patterns of diversity? A test of geometric constraints, climate, and species pool effects for pteridophytes on an elevational gradient in Costa Rica. Global Ecol Biogeogr 15:358–371

  55. Koh C-N, Lee P-F, Wu S-H (2006) Does the distribution of breeding bird species richness in Taiwan follow the mid-domain effect? Taiwania 51:108–116

  56. Kollmair M, Gurung GS, Hurni K, Maselli D (2005) Mountains: special places to be protected? An analysis of worldwide nature conservation efforts in mountains. Int J Biodivers Sci Manag 1:181–189

  57. Kraft NJB, Comita LS, Chase JM, Sanders NJ, Swenson NG, Crist TO, Stegen JC, Vellend M, Boyle B, Anderson MJ, Cornell HV, Davies KF, Freestone AL, Inouye BD, Harrison SP, Myers JA (2011) Disentangling the drivers of β-diversity along latitudinal and elevational gradients. Science 333:1755–1758

  58. Levanoni O, Levin N, Peèr G, Turbé A, Kark S (2011) Can we predict butterfly diversity along an elevation gradient from space? Ecography 34:373–383

  59. Lieberman D, Lieberman M, Peralta R, Hartshorn GS (1996) Tropical forest structure and composition on a large scale altitudinal gradient in Costa Rica. J Ecol 84:137–152

  60. Luoto M, Heikkinen RK, Pöyry J, Saarinen K (2006) Determinants of the biogeographical distribution of butterflies in boreal regions. J Biogeogr 33:1764–1778

  61. Machac A, Janda M, Dunn RR, Sanders NJ (2011) Elevational gradients in phylogenetic structure of ant communities reveal the interplay of biotic and abiotic constraints on diversity. Ecography 34:364–371

  62. McCain CM (2003) North American desert rodents: a test of the mid-domain effect in species richness. J Mamm 84:967–980

  63. McCain CM (2004) The mid-domain effect applied to elevational gradients: species richness of small mammals in Costa Rica. J Biogeogr 31:19–31

  64. McCain CM (2009) Global analysis of bird elevational diversity. Global Ecol Biogeogr 18:346–360

  65. Mittermeier RA, Gill PR, Hoffman M, Pilgrim J, Brooks T, Mittermeier CG, Lamoreux J, da Fonseca GAB (2005) Hotspots revisited: earth’s biologically richest and most endangered terrestrial ecoregions. CEMEX, Mexico

  66. Naithani A, Bhatt D (2012) Bird community structure in natural and urbanized habitats along an altitudinal gradient in Pauri district (Garhwal Himalaya) of Uttarakhand state, India. Biologia 67:800–808

  67. Navarro SAG (1992) Altitudinal distribution of birds in the Sierra Madre Del Sur, Guerrero, Mexico. Condor 94:29–39

  68. Nor S (2001) Elevational diversity patterns of small mammals on Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Global Ecol Biogeogr 10:41–62

  69. Oommen MA, Shanker K (2005) Elevational species richness patterns emerge from multiple local mechanisms in Himalayan woody plants. Ecology 86:3039–3047

  70. Parmesan C, Ryrholm N, Stefanescu C, Hill JK, Thomas CD, Descimon H, Huntley B, Kaila L, Kullberg J, Tammaru T, Tennent WJ, Thomas JA, Warren M (1999) Poleward shifts in geographical ranges of butterfly species associated with regional warming. Nature 399:579–583

  71. Pollard E (1977) A method for assessing changes in the abundance of butterflies. Biol Conserv 12:116–134

  72. Posa MRC, Sodhi NS (2006) Effects of anthropogenic land use on forest birds and butterflies in Subic Bay, Philippines. Conserv Biol 129:256–270

  73. Price TD, Mohan D, Tietze DT, Hooper DM, Orme CDL, Rasmussen PC (2011) Determinants of northerly range limits along the Himalayan bird diversity gradient. Am Nat 178:S97–S108

  74. Rahbek C (1997) The relationship among area, elevation and regional species richness in Neotropical birds. Am Nat 149:875–902

  75. Rahbek C (2005) The role of spatial scale and the perception of large-scale species-richness patterns. Ecol Lett 8:224–239

  76. Romdal TS, Grytnes JA (2007) An indirect area effect on elevational species richness patterns. Ecography 30:440–448

  77. Rosenzweig ML (1995) Species diversity in space and time. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

  78. Rowe R (2009) Environmental and geometric drivers of small mammal diversity along elevational gradients in Utah. Ecography 32:411–422

  79. Sanchez-Rodriguez JF, Baz A (1995) The effects of elevation on the butterflies communities of a Mediterranean Mountain, Sierra De Javalambre, Central Spain. J Lepid Soc 49:192–207

  80. Sanders NJ, Rahbek C (2012) The patterns and causes of elevational diversity gradients. Ecography 35:1–3

  81. Shrestha UB, Shrestha S, Chaudhary P, Chaudhary RP (2010) How representative is the protected areas system of Nepal? A gap analysis based on geophysical and biological features. Mt Res Dev 30:282–294

  82. Spitzer K, Jaroš J, Havelka J, Lepš J (1997) Effect of small-scale disturbance on butterfly communities of an Indochina montane rainforest. Biol Conserv 80:9–15

  83. Srivastava DS, Lawton JH (1998) Why more productive sites have more species: an experimental test of theory using tree-hole communities. Am Nat 52:510–529

  84. Telwala Y, Brook BW, Manish K, Pandit MK (2013) Climate-induced elevational range shifts and increase in plant species richness in a Himalayan biodiversity epicentre. PLoS One 8:e57103

  85. Thapa J (2008) Communities of small mammals and small carnivores in the Teesta River Basin, Sikkim Himalaya, India. Ph.D. Thesis, Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Coimbatore and Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, India

  86. Uniyal VP (2007) Butterflies in the Great Himalayan conservation landscape, Himachal Pradesh, Western Himalaya. Entomon 32:119–127

  87. Vu LV (2009) Diversity and similarity of butterfly communities in five different habitat types at Tam Dao National Park, Vietnam. J Zool 277:15–22

  88. Vu VL, Yuan DC (2003) The differences of butterfly (Lepidoptera, Papilionoidea) communities in habitats with various degrees of disturbances and altitudes in tropical forests of Vietnam. Biodivers Conserv 12:1099–1111

  89. Walpole MJ, Sheldon IR (1999) Sampling butterflies in tropical rainforest: an evaluation of a transect walk method. Biol Conserv 87:85–91

  90. Walther GE, Post E, Convey P, Mentzel A, Parmesan P, Beebe TJC, Fromentin J, Guldberg OH, Bairlein F (2002) Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature 416:389–395

  91. Wang X, Fang J, Sanders NJ, White PS, Tang Z (2009) Relative importance of climate versus local factors in shaping the regional patterns of forest plant richness across northeast China. Ecography 32:133–142

  92. White P, Kerr JT (2006) Contrasting spatial and temporal global change impacts on butterfly species richness during the 20th century. Ecography 29:908–918

  93. Whittaker RJ (2010) Meta-analyses and mega-mistakes: calling time on meta-analysis of the species richness–productivity relationship. Ecology 91:2522–2533

  94. Wilson RJ, Gutierrez D, Gutierrez J, Martínez D, Agudo R, Monserrat VJ (2005) Changes to the elevational limits and extent of species ranges associated with climate change. Ecol Lett 8:1138–1146

  95. Wilson RJ, Gutierrez D, Gutierrez J, Monserrat VJ (2007) An elevational shift in butterfly species richness and composition accompanying recent climate change. Glob Change Biol 13:1873–1887

  96. Wood B, Gilman MP (1998) The effects of disturbance on forest butterflies using two methods of sampling in Trinidad. Biodivers Conserv 7:597–616

  97. Wu Y, Yang Q, Wen Z, Xia L, Zhang Q, Zhou H (2013) What drives the species richness patterns of non-volant small mammals along a subtropical elevational gradient? Ecography 36:185–196

  98. Wynter-Blyth MA (1957) Butterflies of the Indian region. Bombay Natural History Society, Bombay

  99. Yu X-D, Lu L, Luo T-H, Zhou H-Z (2013) Elevational gradient in species richness pattern of epigaeic beetles and underlying mechanisms at East slope of Balang Mountain in Southwestern China. PLoS One 8:e69177

Download references

Acknowledgments

This study forms a part of the project “Carrying capacity of the Teesta river basin in Sikkim” funded by MoEF, Government of India through CISMHE, University of Delhi. We are grateful to Government of Sikkim (Forests and Home Department) for necessary permits and cooperation to carry out field work. We thank scientific and administrative staff of SACON for facilities to undertake this research, and Ajith Kumar, S. Bhupathy, Basundhara, Sophio, Ranjini, Narapati and Kishor for various supports. BKA thank Sikkim University for facilities during the preparation of this manuscript. Critical comments of anonymous reviewers and editorial team of the journal were much helpful to refine the manuscript. Hospitality of local communities and support of field assistants are highly appreciated.

Author information

Correspondence to Bhoj Kumar Acharya.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (XLS 60 kb)

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Acharya, B.K., Vijayan, L. Butterfly diversity along the elevation gradient of Eastern Himalaya, India. Ecol Res 30, 909–919 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-015-1292-0

Download citation

Keywords

  • Conservation
  • Energy
  • Productivity
  • Range size
  • Sikkim