Butterfly Monitoring for Conservation

  • Doug TaronEmail author
  • Leslie Ries


Monitoring butterfly populations is an essential component of their conservation. Some survey techniques measure occupancy, and simply determine the presence or absence of species, whereas other techniques measure butterfly abundance. Mark release recapture techniques involve marking the wings of a subset of a population, releasing and then recapturing them, and determining the proportion of marked individuals in the re-sampling. Distance sampling takes advantage of the decrease in probability of detection of individual butterflies as a function of increased distance from the observer. These techniques can both be used to estimate actual population size. Mark release recapture is the most rigorous, but also the most labor-intensive technique. It also carries risk of damage to individuals during the marking process. Distance sampling is statistically robust and doesn’t risk damaging butterflies by marking them. In some cases, the requirement for survey transects to be placed randomly within the population, and the assumption that the butterflies are distributed uniformly limit the application of the technique. For Pollard walks, surveyors walk a set route at a uniform pace. They count all butterflies within a prescribed distance (generally about 20 m). In addition to these systematic survey techniques, a variety of less formal monitoring protocols are also used. These include count circles, field trips, and wandering surveys. There are also a wide variety of online opportunities for interested individuals to submit butterfly observations. Researchers should consider the assumptions, advantages and disadvantages when selecting a technique.


Field Trip Distance Sampling Systematic Survey Occupancy Data Butterfly Population 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank the program directors and volunteers for their dedication in participating in these programs and providing invaluable data to meet research and conservation needs. We particularly thank program managers who shared their meta-data with us so that we could track program activity and compile records across programs. Funding was provided to LR through NSF award DBI-1147049 and from DBI-1052875 through the Socio-environmental Synthesis Center.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Chicago Academy of SciencesPeggy Notebaert Nature MuseumChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of Maryland, College Park, Maryland and the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis CenterAnnapolisUSA

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