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Habitat preference and dispersal of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly (Hamearis lucina) on an abandoned chalk quarry in Bedfordshire, UK

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The Duke of Burgundy butterfly (Hamearis lucina) has declined severely since the 1970s and is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority species. Its populations are mostly confined to scrubby calcareous grassland, where management for short-turf species can be detrimental to the butterfly. We briefly review the literature on the Duke of Burgundy and investigate their habitat preferences, survival and dispersal at a chalk grassland reserve in Bedfordshire, UK. We found that adults generally preferred more sheltered locations but that their habitat preferences were less restrictive than choice of food-plants. Females chose larger plants with longer leaves in denser patches on which to lay eggs. Adults showed reasonable dispersal ability with turnover recorded between areas isolated by scrub. Our results indicate that the species is able to use isolated areas of favourable habitat at a reserve scale and that conservation could therefore involve cyclic management to provide suitable habitat year-to-year.

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We would like to thank all the Wildlife Trust Staff and Wildlife Trust Ecology Group volunteers who gave their time so willingly to the project, including: Phil Ames, Keith Balmer, Katharine Banham, Graham Bellamy, Linda Birkin, Nick Bowles, Margaret Browne, Diana Cheng, Brian Eversham, Tom Fayle, Andy Fleckney, Piers Harrington, Perry Hastings, Kathryn Ingall, Lisa King, Anna Lacey, Rachel Lovatt, Julie MacDonald, Linda Marshall, Nick Millar, Esther Milne, Kalsum Mohd Yusah, Martin O’Connor, Sarah Rodger, Paul and Anne Sinclair, Paula Smith, Jake Snaddon, Henry Stanier, Russell Stebbings, Laura Sutcliffe, Claire White, and Fay Williams. We would also like to thank the Department of Zoology, Cambridge for use of their facilities, and Stephen Coleman and the Heritage and Environment Section of the Bedfordshire County Council for allowing us access to the historical aerial photographs from Totternhoe Quarry, and Sam Ellis, Matthew Oates and Jane Hill for their valuable advice on the project. We would also like to thank William Foster, Neil Hulme, Jake Snaddon, Nils Anthes and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments on the script. Finally we would like to thank SITA Trust Landfill Community Fund together with Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire Butterfly Conservation, Natural England, and the Balfour-Browne Fund, Cambridge for funding the project.

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Correspondence to Edgar C. Turner.

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Turner, E.C., Granroth, H.M.V., Johnson, H.R. et al. Habitat preference and dispersal of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly (Hamearis lucina) on an abandoned chalk quarry in Bedfordshire, UK. J Insect Conserv 13, 475–486 (2009).

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