Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 1943–1966 | Cite as

Habitats and Resources: The Need for a Resource-based Definition to Conserve Butterflies

  • Roger L. H. DennisEmail author
  • Tim G. Shreeve
  • Hans Van Dyck
Special Issue: Extinction Risk: Predicting, Assessing, Prioritising and Redressing


Current definitions of habitat are closely allied to the concept of patch and matrix. This concept is, for instance, central to the prevailing metapopulation models of population dynamics. But, butterfly population dynamics, mobility and spatial structure can only properly be understood in the context of a resource-based definition of habitats. In criticising current definitions of habitat, we illustrate how habitat is best understood in terms of resource distributions. These transcend vegetation-based definitions of habitat and lie at the root of life history strategies, the vulnerability of butterflies to environmental changes and extinction, and govern conservation status. We emphasise the need for a resource-use database and demonstrate the shortcomings of current data for conserving butterflies; patch based definitions of habitats are inappropriate for some species and for others do not provide a universal panacea, inadequately explaining spatial occurrence when scaled over space and time. A resource-based habitat definition challenges the bipolar, patch vs. matrix view of landscape; the alternative is to view landscape as a continuum of overlapping resource distributions. We urge greater attention to the details of butterfly behaviour and resource use as the keys to understanding how landscape is exploited and therefore to successful conservation at the landscape scale.


Arthropods Biotopes Habitat Matrix Metapopulations Patch quality Resources 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger L. H. Dennis
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Tim G. Shreeve
    • 1
  • Hans Van Dyck
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Biological and Molecular SciencesOxford Brookes UniversityHeadingtonUK
  2. 2.NERC Centre for Ecology and HydrologyHuntingdonUK
  3. 3.Biodiversity Research Centre, Ecology & Biogeography UnitCatholic University of Louvain (UCL)Louvain-la-NeuveBelgium

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