Habitat utilization by ovipositing females and larvae of the Marsh fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia) in a mosaic of meadows and croplands
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The butterfly Euphydryas aurinia occurs as a classical metapopulation in Yanjiaping village, Heibei province, China. In the patch network under study there were 38 habitat patches. Most patches were uncultivated, consisting of meadows and fallows, while others had been cultivated, i.e., used as small croplands. In the cultivated patches, the habitat for the butterfly can be classified into two types: meadow type (MTH) and cropland type (CTH). In contrast, the uncultivated habitat patches consists only of MTH. We examined the habitat utilization of ovipositing females and larvae of E. aurinia to assess the effect of mixed land use on the butterfly’s occurrence. More egg clusters and pre-hibernating larval groups were distributed throughout CTH than MTH. This dependence on CTH may be due to the preference of egg-laying females for large-sized host plants, which were mainly concentrated in CTH. Compared to the MTH, the mortality rate in CTH was lower. Therefore, for both eggs and pre-hibernating larvae, the quality of CTH was higher than that of MTH. The conditions in MTH, on the other hand, were important for the development of post-hibernation larvae. A combination of extensive farming and animal husbandry has created a mosaic of meadows and croplands in the habitats studied here, which is typical of rural areas in some developing countries. This study implies that patchy land use typical of traditional agriculture facilitates the long-term persistence of E. aurinia.
KeywordsConservation Cultivated patches Euphydryas aurinia Habitat types Habitat utilization
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We are grateful for helpful corrections and comments on the manuscript from I. Hanski and M. R. Shaw. We also thank Guofa Zhou, Weiping Zeng and P. Gongal for helpful comments and language corrections. This research is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 30270241).
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