Thyme and isolation for the Sinai baton blue butterfly (Pseudophilotes sinaicus)

Abstract

The distribution of the narrowly endemic butterfly Pseudophilotes sinaicus (Lycaenidae) was studied. Potential habitat within its range was first located and then the quality of that habitat assessed. Degree of shelter, diversity of plant species, and resource area of an individual food plant (Thymus decussatus) all affected habitat quality and together were used to develop an index of habitat suitability applicable to each site. The butterfly's distribution was then studied within the identified network of suitable habitat patches: isolated patches with a small resource area were least likely to contain butterflies. Population size in a patch (as opposed merely to patch occupancy) was affected by resource area and the quality of habitat within that patch. Metapopulation processes and variation in habitat quality therefore appear to combine to describe the distribution of patches occupied by P. sinaicus and their population sizes. This finding provides insights into some of the processes operating on an endemic species throughout its geographical range and has important implications for the conservation of this rare butterfly.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Professor Moustafa Fouda (Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency) and Dr John Grainger (St. Katherine Protectorate Management Unit) for permission to work in the area. We thank also John Grainger and his team for their logistical support, Farhan Mohamed Zedan for his assistance and invaluable local knowledge and Jo Phillips for her help with some of the fieldwork. We thank Chris Thomas and Konrad Fiedler for their helpful comments on this manuscript. We also thank Suez Canal University Faculty of Science and the staff at their research station in St. Katherine. M. J.'s research is supported by a Study Abroad Studentship from The Leverhulme Trust.

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Correspondence to Mike James.

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James, M., Gilbert, F. & Zalat, S. Thyme and isolation for the Sinai baton blue butterfly (Pseudophilotes sinaicus). Oecologia 134, 445–453 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-002-1123-1

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Keywords

  • Conservation
  • Endemic species
  • Fragmented landscape
  • Habitat quality
  • Metapopulation