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Stability of butterfly assemblages in relation to the level of numerical resolution and altitude

Abstract

Quick studies on biodiversity are frequently used in conservation assessments. Conclusions from these studies would be consistent if assemblages under consideration are stable over time. The stability of butterfly assemblages in the Picos de Europa in northern Spain was examined at several levels of numerical resolution. The survey was carried out in 1993 and 1995, which allowed at least one complete turnover of all individuals in each locality. Butterfly assemblages were usually stable at the levels of number of species and total number of individuals, species presence and absence, and abundance rankings. But, absolute abundances of individual species changed from 1993 to 1995 out of synchrony with one another. Regional distributions and altitudinal ranges of species were also stable. Assemblages were similar in both study years, judging by similar site ordinations by reciprocal averaging. Overall, these results are in accordance with most studies where stability has been examined at several numerical levels; they also suggest that abundances of individual species do not vary enough to disrupt overall assemblage abundance rankings. Butterfly assemblages at sites at higher altitude tended to be more unstable in terms of abundance rankings and absolute abundances. This agrees with ecological theory predicting less stable assemblages in physically ‘harsh’ environments. We concluded that monitoring for a relatively short time period can give a clear picture of both local and regional butterfly biodiversity and species composition.

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Gutiérrez, D., Menéndez, R. Stability of butterfly assemblages in relation to the level of numerical resolution and altitude. Biodiversity and Conservation 7, 967–979 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008885522377

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  • altitude
  • biodiversity
  • demographic stability
  • Lepidoptera
  • northern Spain