, Volume 159, Issue 1, pp 117–126 | Cite as

Synergistic effects of an extreme weather event and habitat fragmentation on a specialised insect herbivore

  • Katrien PiessensEmail author
  • Dries Adriaens
  • Hans Jacquemyn
  • Olivier Honnay
Plant-Animal Interactions - Original Paper


Habitat fragmentation is considered to be one of the main causes of population decline and species extinction worldwide. Furthermore, habitat fragmentation can decrease the ability of populations to resist and to recover from environmental disturbances such as extreme weather events, which are expected to occur at an increasing rate as a result of climate change. In this study, we investigated how calcareous grassland fragmentation affected the impact of the climatically extreme summer of 2003 on egg deposition rates, population size variation and survival of the blue butterfly Cupido minimus, a specialist herbivore of Anthyllis vulneraria. Immediately after the 2003 summer heat wave, populations of the host plant declined in size; this was paralleled with decreases in population size of the herbivore and altered egg deposition rates. In 2006 at the end of the monitoring period, however, most A. vulneraria populations had recovered and only one population went extinct. In contrast, several butterfly populations had gone extinct between 2003 and 2006. Extinction probability was significantly related to initial population size, with small populations having a higher risk of extinction than large populations. These results support the prediction that species of higher trophic levels are more susceptible to extinction due to habitat fragmentation and severe disturbances.


Calcareous grassland Climate change Trophic interaction Cupido minimus Anthyllis vulneraria 



We would like to thank three anonymous referees and Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter for their thoughtful and detailed comments on this manuscript. Jan Butaye, Tom Neels and Eric Van Beek helped with data collection. This research is part of the BIOCORE research project, funded by the Federal Belgian Science Policy. D. A. held a grant from the Flemish Fund for Scientific Research (FWO).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katrien Piessens
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dries Adriaens
    • 1
  • Hans Jacquemyn
    • 2
  • Olivier Honnay
    • 2
  1. 1.Division Forest, Nature and LandscapeUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Laboratory of Plant EcologyUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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